35

I will be turning 35 years old next month and I kind of feel like a failure.

You see, I really thought I’d have a pet monkey by now.

Other than that, I feel pretty good about 35.

Since I started contributing to a retirement fund when I was 4 years old, I don’t tend to put much stock in traditional timelines. Not much in my life has gone the normal way. I never wanted the things the other girls wanted. I would stare blankly when they said they wanted to have a million babies with some boy, and I would just think – some real estate would be nice. You know, somewhere for my pet monkey to play. 

I didn’t even think I’d ever get married. But at some point, I told my boyfriend I’d like to have a little party in Italy where we got dressed up and all our favorite people were there and we stood in front of them and promised to love each other forever and then it was legally binding.

He took that as “wedding” and I went along because I love him and got a pretty ring out of the deal.

Many of my friends live very by-the-book lives and I wonder what that would be like. Sometimes I have a twinge of jealousy because it looks so comforting and socially acceptable.

For example, my job title is “writer” which makes me enormously happy, but it also carries the same seriousness as a small child who decides to call herself “unicorn.” There are very few credentials required. Identifying yourself as anything artistic tends to be followed by a head-tilt and requests to prove and justify yourself.

Many of my friends have jobs like Program Administrator of Something Awesome or the Director of All Things Important. My business cards come from VistaPrint, where a friend recently ordered some that looked equally official…for her toddler to give out at play-dates.

It can be hard when everyone else seems to be doing things on some culturally pre-approved time frame. When the engagement party is followed by the wedding and then the baby shower. When the graduation is followed by the job and then by the promotion to the corner office. But some of us do things in a different order. Backwards or sideways or not at all. And that is okay, too. I don’t think that anyone on their deathbed has ever said, “I’m just so glad I did everything in a timely fashion.”

There are few things I can say with total certainty after my almost-35 years of existence, but this is one of them: as long as you’re still breathing, you have the power to change your mind, reinvent yourself and follow that bliss. It’s never too late.

A complaint about being “too old” for something deserves to be followed by a smack upside the head. I’ve had several friends die.

At age 19.

At 21.

At 32.

At ages that should be about beginnings, not endings. The idea of bitching about getting older – a luxury that my friends never had – seems obscenely ungrateful. So, I’ll skip the jokes about celebrating my 29th birthday “again” because I’m proud of my age. I don’t want to live my life by the numbers.

So, come on, 35, let’s see what you’ve got. (I really hope it’s a pet monkey.)

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