I look in the mirror and see the face of a forty year old woman where a 22 year old woman should be. Her hair is prematurely grey, she has lines and wrinkles from laughter and not laughter, and her skin shows plainly the passage of time. The corners of her mouth turn down, lines a little too prominent, eyes a little saggy, crows feet. How did this happen, this aging? Where did she come from? Where did I go? The last time I looked, I was dancing barefoot on a sticky floor, music loud, muscles aching, beer warm, whirling and twirling. Living.
Now, suddenly, I’m this. I’m chores and bills, Prozac and playdates. I’m yoga pants and coffee and wine. Target.
I’m a cliche. A stereotype.
That girl, the one who danced and twirled, she would be sad for the woman I am. She would grieve for the passing of my free spirit, my youth. She would weep for the music I don’t listen to and the adventures I never took, the people I never met.
The girl I was wasn’t any more confident than I am now, but she was freer. She was uninhibited. She lived. Sometimes she didn’t live well or make good choices, but she LIVED. And her poor choices, her recklessness and naivete, luckily they didn’t get her into trouble. She lasted long enough to become me, to get older, to marry, get a mortgage, have some kids. Then she just kind of faded. She shrunk under the weight of my unintentional transition to the bourgeoisie.
I’d catch a glimpse of her every now and then, over the years. A familiar but distant smell or chords from a song I used to know, some small thing would trigger a memory and I’d smile and feel a wave of sadness over her loss.
You know what, though? It’s fine. I’m realizing now, at the ripe old age of 39, that it’s fine. We age, we mature, we get mortgages and wrinkles, we drive vans, and drink white wine. We do these things, and willingly give up the freedom of youth so that our kids can have that same brief period in their lives where they can be reckless and free and have adventures and live before they become us.