I am no longer 29.
I took a selfie today, as so many people are doing right now, for that app that matches you to a museum painting. The chosen painting was a little off, as most of them are, but that wasn’t what struck me. No, what I saw when I looked at the picture was a streak of gray running through my bangs.
It’s been there for a couple of years, slowly getting bigger and more noticeable, partly because I stopped coloring my hair and the gray stands out more against my natural ashy blond than against the golden blond my hairdresser gave me for years. But I’m also getting older, and the grays are multiplying, and in more places than just my bangs. And do you want to hear the weirdest part?
I like it. I like that little gray streak. I am no longer 29, or 35, or 39, and I don’t want to pretend I am. I’m 41, and I’ve earned every gray hair on that head of mine. I’m proud of what I’ve done in those years.
I’ve delivered two children, and my husband and I have raised them to be wonderful teenagers, which means learning how to soothe a colicky baby, how to get a toddler to go to sleep, how to potty train a boy, and how to get those kids to become independent little people. (Okay, I’m still working on that last one). 41 means I survived all those busy/crazy/stressful/lovely childhood years. I’m still unsure how that whole empty nest thing will work, when I don’t have to be Mom every day, but that’s a problem for 44 Bonny. At 41, I like my life with teenagers.
I’ve been married to my high school sweetheart for over 20 years, and we have a lot of happy memories. But there have been many times when it’s been damn hard. There have been times when I honestly wondered if we’d make it. But we’re stubborn, and love each other enough to do the work and grow and figure out how to support each other in healthy ways. It’s still not perfect, but no relationship is. I’m a better wife at 41 than I was at 31, for sure.
I had a successful career, and I was able to walk away when it was no longer the right fit. Then I went back to work after a hiatus as a SAHM, and it was hard since I was switching fields and had a four-year gap in my work history. But I found something and I’m making it work. It gives me a healthy work-life balance, and at 41, I know how important that is to me.
I’ve made wonderful friends, and I’ve had some friends drift away. I’ve lost beloved pets and adopted new beloved pets. I bought a car all by myself. I’ve written books, full novel-length books, that I don’t think are terrible. I’ve learned skills that sustain me creatively, especially knitting. I’ve traveled to fun places, been to awesome concerts and shows, listened to gorgeous music of all genres.
I lost my father. And my father-in-law. And my husband’s grandfather. All three truly great men. I’ve gotten a hint of what it’s like to take care of the person who took care of me as a child. I survived a prolonged bout with depression, my first (and worst, but not last), at least partially tied to grief and loss and stress and physical changes. I’ve learned my own signs of depression, and I’ve learned that medication can make a huge difference. I’ve learned that life is so much better when you’re not crippled by depression and anxiety. I’ve learned that it can ebb and flow and it’s okay to not be okay sometimes.
I’ve learned that it’s so much better than okay to be weird or nerdy or geeky or whatever you want to be. It’s so wonderful to be passionate about the things that bring you joy, no matter what other people think about it (my Twilight shrine pleases me to no end). I learned to embrace my naturally wavy hair and stopped wearing so much makeup every day. Because I like who I am at 41. This is me, take it or leave it. I never could have said that at 29.
I’m a better person than I was ten years ago. I’m more patient, more open-minded, more forgiving, more supportive. That doesn’t mean I don’t still have a temper. I still get mad at my kids and my husband sometimes. I still get frustrated and I still say unkind things at times. But I’ve learned how to sometimes hold my tongue when my words aren’t helpful. I’ve learned–am still learning–how to apologize when I need to. It’s so freaking hard for me. But I’m trying, and doing much better with it than I could have done even five years ago.
No, of course I don’t love everything about aging. My kids have to help me with technology sometimes. I go to bed before 10 every night. My back aches more often than I’d like. My vision is getting worse and I don’t love that the skin on my eyelids is starting to sag ever so slightly. I don’t mind the wrinkles yet, but I know that may change when there are more and they’re more pronounced. I know I will experience more unpleasant things as I age. But I like to think I will be able to handle those changes, just as I’ve handled them so far.
In the grand scheme of things, 41 is not really that old. There’s still a lot of cool stuff ahead of you at 41. So when my birthday rolls around, I don’t need to make the jokes about how “I’m only 37, haha!” I want to be genuine, and honest, and celebrate every single one of my years.
I’m 41. And, guys? 41 is pretty damn good.
Edited to add: it’s not my birthday, but thank you for the well wishes! I’m just thinking about aging today.
p.s. believe me, the gray is a lot more noticeable in real life!