I just turned 40, so I’ve been doing a lot of rumination and taking stock of my life, so far. I thought I’d craft a witty, insightful blog about how I’m fine with aging (I’m being totally honest…really. That wasn’t even sarcastic! I swear!) and how I embrace getting older/having more life experiences/savoring the wisdom that comes from experience. My basic philosophy is this: age is just a number, and I didn’t turn a year older on my birthday…I was just one day older than I was the day before, which is the same truth as every other day. Then there’s this: the alternative to aging is…well…death, and if I have a choice between getting older or dying, I’m on the side of aging. Hands down.
So I’ve been doing an inventory at this “milestone” of 40 – marriages (one), kids (four), boyfriends that lasted longer than a month (five), houses bought (two), cats (ten), cars (seven), places I’ve lived (12 homes in two countries and six states), births witnessed (six), surgeries (two), countries and states I’ve been pulled over/ticketed in (three and three), roadtrip miles embarked on – alone - with kids (more than 10,000, with kids between infancy and age 10). Yep, that's a lot of living and a lot of adventures, indeed.
In the mental blog I’ve been drafting, I was going to parrot how I’m still no genius, even though I’m so much smarter than I used to be. And that, hopefully, I will grow wiser and better with the years that are hopefully still ahead of me. I wanted to acknowledge the good juju I’ve been feeling these past few weeks…put together, somehow, with a new maturity and sense of peace. Either my medication has finally kicked in, or I have reached some kind of inner peace. Wow. Forty really is fabulous!
Then, as I was lying in bed last night perusing Facebook, I took one of those quizzes that I think are stupid but still occasionally take, just to reaffirm how stupid they are. The quiz was “Which movie best sums up your life?” I didn’t know if I was headed for Forrest Gump or The Godfather or Napoleon Dynamite, but I was anxious to find out. I thought it might make a good tie-in for the ‘Turning 40’ blog percolating in my mind. And then, twenty-eight questions later, I got my answer. The movie that most resembles my life is….drumroll, please…Titanic.
Titanic?!?!? Are you freaking kidding me, Facebook?!?! My life most resembles Titanic?!?! What is that even supposed to mean?!?! And that’s when my newfound maturity and composure went straight out the window, just like the billions of gallons of water that rushed in Titanic. At the age of 40, according to the renowned social scientist called Facebook, my life most resembles a movie about a sinking ship in which three-fourths of the people involved died in freezing water. How the hell is that supposed to make me feel, as I reach the tender age of 40!?!?!? Thanks for NOTHING, Facebook. Thanks. For. Nothing.
I often joke that I’m up the proverbial creek without a paddle, or that we – as humans – are all in the same boat together…I just didn’t realize that the paddle-less boat was actually Titanic. Am I supposed to be the ship? Am I the vessel that rams the iceberg and tries to stay afloat? In all honesty, that kind of sounds like me. The iceberg is my life. I personally am the ship, and it parallels my life because, like the ship, I’m just trying to stay above water. Yikes. How depressing.
Could I be the heroine, Rose, perhaps? There’s a scene early in the movie where she says to Jack, “I feel like I’m standing in the middle of a crowded room, screaming, and no one hears me.” As a parent of four, I live this statement – both literally and figuratively – every day. Sometimes I am actually screaming (Pick up that meatball! Stop sitting on your brother! Who drilled a hole in the bureau?!? Where are the scissors??) and no one acknowledges me. Sometimes the screaming happens inside my head and is only visible in my eyes, but I definitely can relate to Rose. Damn you, Facebook…suddenly, I feel less put together, less confident and even slightly doomed.
I definitely couldn’t be Jack. I never win at card games and I can barely draw stick figures. I’ve never even been to Wisconsin. I’m certainly not of the ilk of a Cal Hockley or any of the wealthy passengers…no parallels in the mindset of privilege or class-based society. I could, perhaps, be Molly Brown. She was a sassy broad with a conscience, and that’s how I like to think of myself. But that’s probably not where Facebook was going with its choice.
I kept thinking about what the meaningless Facebook quiz meant. I needed a positive spin, to recapture my turning-40 buzz. So maybe I’m the latter-half Rose, and that’s my blog tie-in. Maybe I’m on my way to being the adult Rose and, eventually, the old broad who lives long enough and survives adversity, who makes the moments count - and comes out on the other side stronger, better, and wiser. Maybe I’m that woman – the one who will wow people at age 100, with stories from my past. And hopefully I’ll have a giant diamond in my possession as I recount the stories. Yes, this is the parallel I choose to take from the stupid quiz.
So my 40-year-old-good-juju is back. There are so many perspectives to be found in a singular story – both good and bad. And maybe the lesson is that, when you get old enough, you can see more of them and find the one that suits you best. Maybe that’s what wisdom is. Or maybe that’s where inner peace comes from. Maybe I'll have the answer in another 40 years.