I remember a time, back in my late 20’s, when I was out with some friends from college. We had stayed close after graduation, and were celebrating the 29th birthday of one of the members of our group. She was a bit quiet and withdrawn that night, and we asked her if anything was wrong. She said she was a little depressed about turning 29, because now she was within a year of her 30th birthday – and 30 meant she was getting old.

Even back then, I remember thinking how ridiculous that reasoning was, although it was funny and sad at the same time.

I also remember a slightly-similar conversation with my mother-in-law a number of years later. She is one of seven siblings, and was joking – well, half-joking, anyway – about how old she was feeling when her “baby sister” turned 50.

I felt the same way when my own youngest sister – I don’t think she’d appreciate me calling her my baby sister – turned 50. It wasn’t really the number itself that got me feeling my age. It was the fact that I suddenly found myself being pushed into the next generation. Being in the same situation my mother-in-law had once called attention to meant that I had now caught up to where she was then.

The reason these age milestones are on my mind right now is that we just reached another one – my son turned 30 over the weekend. We were celebrating his engagement as well as his birthday, and he’s the one who pointed out that he’s now almost exactly the same age my husband was when he – my son, not my husband – was born. That got all of us comparing the ages and stages we were at different points in our lives. It brought back my own memories of getting engaged, getting married, and having kids. And turning 30, 50, and 60.

I can think in terms of these events, and in terms of milestone birthdays. But I don’t think in terms of getting old, except in a joking kind of way. Maybe it’s because I have close friends who are much older than I am and close friends who are much younger. Or because I’m fortunate enough to be in relatively good health – and not just “for my age.” Or maybe it’s because I still enjoy meeting new people, visiting new places, and exploring new ideas. These are the things that keep us young. Or maybe they just keep us too busy to notice we’re getting old.

I lost touch long ago with my friend from college. She’d be in her mid-60’s now, and I hope that wherever she is, her life has grown rich and fulfilling over the years. I hope she has acquired the wisdom and grace and humor that come with age, and that looking back, she now considers the ripe old age of 30 as the launching pad into the best years of her life.

I hope my son will think the same thing – when he gets to be my age.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on August 27, 2015.
©Betty Liedtke, 2015

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