The absolute WORST thing happened to me today.
I realized how old I am. More specifically, I realized how young I am NOT. And, let me tell you. That’s a heartbreaking realization.
So, here’s what happened.
I had to attend a professional development training after school today. I got there on time, moseyed into the classroom where we would be having class, and looked around for a place to sit. Most of the tables were full, but I spotted a seat at a table full of youngish women who seemed about my age, and so I asked if I could sit at the last seat left at their table. They happily agreed and made room for me.
It took about 10 minutes for me to realize that something was sort of… off.
For one thing, they each had sorority letters on their shirts. Something I have not seen since I was in college myself, or at least right out of college.
“Hmm…” i thought to myself, trying not to stare. “That’s weird.”
And then, two of them mention that they were roommates. Now, there is not a thing is the world wrong with having a roommate. It’s just that I haven’t really hung around people with a roommate since before I was married – ALMOST TEN YEARS AGO.
Finally, they started talking about the bars they were going to after the class tonight (ON A SCHOOL NIGHT!) (DOWNTOWN!) and the boys they were going to meet there.
And that’s when I looked around and realized that I was EASILY ten years older than these girls.
So, then we had to go around and introduce ourselves to our table mates. They all knew each other, so it was really just me introducing myself. Their hobbies included shopping, traveling, and frequenting the bars (ON SCHOOL NIGHTS!) (DOWNTOWN!).
My hobbies included reading books, running to lower my cholesterol, and playing with my CHILDREN.
“Oh!” one of them squealed. “You have kids?!”
“It must be so hard to work and be a new mom!” another chimed in.
My palms began to get sweaty. My eye began to twitch.
“Actually,” I practically gasped out. “My daughter is three and my son is… is.. FIVE!”
And then I held my breath because I knew what was coming next.
“OH!” a third laughed. “You look so young! How old are you?”
My heart began pounding. My stomach did a few flips.
“Well, I’m 32.”
And then they said it. The words I have said so often to other people without realizing how awful they are, without realizing that I was crushing their 20-something spirit. “You don’t look that old!” the fourth squealed.
I laughed outwardly and yelled out on the inside, “I KNOW I DON’T LOOK THAT OLD – BECAUSE 32 IS NOT OLD!” But when you are sitting at a table full of girls who just graduated from college, I guess 32 really is old. Or, at least older.
The numbers here really aren’t the issue. Age is just a number, right? But what knocked me on my feet was my perception of myself. I SAW myself as being the same age as those girls. When I saw them sitting together, I thought, “Oh, there are my people.” But when I looked around the room, I probably had more in common with the middle aged women sitting at various other tables, who all were texting their husbands to make sure they had picked up the kids and were feeding them something other than chips for dinner (like I was doing…).
I love being in my 30’s. I feel like I have come into my own in the past few years. I’m more confident, more settled, more patient with myself, more forgiving of myself. The 30s are a great decade for me. But apparently I had been thinking of my 20-something self as a 32-year-old.
But, sitting with those girls, I felt every day of my 32 years.
As the class went on, though, and their conversations rambled from single-girl topic to single-girl topic, I realized that maybe being 32 wasn’t so bad after all. All of the girls wanted to buy homes, but weren’t sure they would ever be able to afford one. Two of them were waiting for their boyfriends to ask them to move in with them. One of them was checking her bank account online to see if her paycheck had cleared yet so that she could pay her rent tomorrow.
I remember those struggles. They weren’t all that long ago, but at the same time, they seem like they were ages ago. And I had to smile to myself at how far Chris and I have come since we were 23 years old.
So, no. I don’t really belong at the 20-something table anymore. And while that might be a hard pill for me to choke down, I think I’m pretty darn happy sitting at the 32-year-old table.