Saturday, March 10, 2012

Anxiety on the 9

I hate birthdays with a '9' in them. That last number in the string marks the end of one decade of life. Maybe more significant, we end our membership in a group with whom we've identified for years, and find ourselves thrust into the next-older class.

Turning 19, I knew I would soon lose my identity as a "teenager." I didn't mind, though, because entering my 20s was exciting and full of promise.

Turning 29, on the other hand, was painful. I had loved being 20-something. I was single, working hard, feeling smart, expanding my horizons. I'd enjoyed living in Milwaukee, my college town, and I'd made friends and work contacts there. After taking a few months to travel in Europe I moved to St. Paul where I'd be three hours from my family instead of 10. St. Paul people were more reserved than those in Milwaukee; networks were harder to tap into, friendships slower to develop. As I turned 29 I found myself in a town full of great things to do, but I had few friends to enjoy them with. I was stuck in a job I hated, disappointed in a recent romance, and just not quite living up to the image I'd imagined for myself. Ready or not, time for youth and hipness was winding to a close. Looming ahead was time to grow up and be mature.

By the time I turned 30, I had a much better job and a very satisfying volunteer role in an organization of women in my field, which in turn brought many new friendships. I took myself a little more seriously, and I suppose I became more mature. At any rate I got used to the new reality of being in my 30s.

Sometime during that era, I watched a male colleague turn 39. He used his office blackboard to make lists of goals unfulfilled and talked nonstop about his dread of this birthday (something I had kept to myself, by the way). I expected even more drama when he turned 40, but there was almost none. That's when I realized that the 9s really are the ones to watch out for.

My birthdays have pretty much followed that pattern ever since. Anxiety on the 9, acceptance on the 0--with the possible exception of 60. I wasn't ready to be 60, so I was very quiet about my birthday that year. Now here I am at another 9, thinking I should have appreciated being only 60. It's not that I haven't fulfilled my goals. It's not even that 70 is impossibly old. It's just that I'm not used to the idea of me being 70. That's what the coming year is about...getting used to my new age-identity.

I was born at 2:10 a.m. on March 11. Ironically, this year March 11 is the day we go back on Daylight Savings Time. Theoretically at 2 a.m. everyone changes their clocks to 3 a.m., thus eliminating the hour I was born. I'm not worried, though.

I am entering the last year of being "in my 60s" and, in fact, I'm beginning my 70th year. As hard as that is to comprehend, I'm celebrating. For a week. Bring it on. 


DJan said...

We are of an age, Nancy. I turned 69 in December and have the same feeling. I have been telling people I'm seventy, just trying to get used to the feel of it. Plus it's the old "three score and ten" that we are supposed to be allotted in life, so all the rest is gravy. I also say bring it on! Glad to have company, too. :-)

Ms Sparrow said...

Happy Birthday! What a lovely, thought-provoking post on aging. Isn't it great how birthdays serve to give us new perspectives?

Jeanie said...

I'm just a bit behind you, turning 65 this year, and I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that all those turning 65 things apply to me now. All to say that like you I am getting used to a new age identity, so this was great for me to read.
Enjoy lots of celebrating and have a very happy birthday.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Happy Birthday Nancy..I hope you have a lovely week. Your grands are going to have so much fun this week! You are is about the nines..and acceptance:)

Linda Myers said...

And what's not to celebrate? Your life looks good to me.

Red said...

Rather neat way to look at aging. I have found some ages difficult but there's no pattern. That's what I like about yours the pattern. So have a wonderful birthday year.

Red Shoes said...

HaPpY BiRtHdAy!!!!

Those '9' years ARE doozies!!!



Cambay Hotels & Resorts said...

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Murr Brewster said...

Happy birthday! I'm coming up on a nine this year. This is embarrassing, but I'll say it anyway: the only birthday that bothered me was 17. I had it in mind that that put me post-prodigy. I was only a prodigy in my mind, but that seemed to seal the deal for me. What a pain I must have been.

As for all the rest, keep 'em coming.

Ellen said...

Happy Birthday! I'm almost right up there with you! My thought is that it only gets better from here.

Sally Wessely said...

Happy birthday a day late. I understand this posting all too well. I just turned 67, so I have a few years before I have that 9 number in my age. I remember being 49 and wondering how I would ever cope with 50. Where does the time go?

By the way, you look awesome for 70. You also are so active and involved. I think we have to stop dwelling on a number. Keep on doing what you do so well.

AiringMyLaundry said...

Happy Birthday!

I'm 29 right now.

Green Monkey said...

the 9's are magical, on their own... but give them another number and well......they are trouble. Happy, happy to you my friend!

Daughter Number Three said...

Oh, life. What it is to be a human. Thanks, Nancy.

Jeanie said...

Apart from the fact that if you look at life on a continuum, there's less on the end where we're at (that depressed me no end when I hit 60!), I really am so much happier and so much more at peace with every year. Somehow, I feel more empowered -- survived this long, mateys, I'll keep going! I send you wonderful happy birthday wishes and lots of warm (belated) birthday hugs!

Dan said...

Found my way here by way of Best Posts of the Week.

I was intrigued and drawn by the title of your post "Anxiety on the 9".

As intrigued as I was, I read on. I was pleasantly surprised by the openness of your heart and life. Impressed by your writing style (I took a peek at your profile... 'aha' I noted to myself). A gift I said to myself 'aha'

Thank you for sharing a little about you.

Congratulations on celebrating another grand-marker of life.

Ally said...

Happy Belated Birthday to you and Augie!! It seems like all the precious people celebrate March birthdays! Neal's was on the 9th. I hope that they were both fantastic and that someday you will be able to pass down the wisdom of surviving the 9's to Augie. You all have already taught him so much. I'm looking forward to what the next year brings all of you.

Zimzamzim said...

I'm entering a '9' year soon - so your article is relevant to me right now :)


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