Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Getting My Kicks before 26!

I don't know what it is about the number 26 (and really, it IS just a number), but for some reason, it's affecting me considerably more than 25 (and believe me, THAT one hit pretty hard). I guess it's the ever-closer proximity of 30, or perhaps the lengthy list I things I HAVEN'T done that other people seem to think I SHOULD HAVE done by this point. Of course, in my favor there is the list of things I HAVE done that other people HAVEN'T done by this age, so in reality it all probably balances out.

Nevertheless, despite all the clever adages, the reassurances from friends who've already been here (and beyond), and the general optimism I have about my future (which defies logic at times), I am profoundly affected by this encroaching number. Try as I might, I can't shake the emotional/psychological response. It's not an issue of vanity - my first white hairs started cropping up last year, and honestly, although I fuss about them as I yank them out of my scalp (there are only three, so this is much less painful than it sounds), I'm okay with looking older. In the mornings, I can see where the wrinkles are going to set up permanent residence before too long, and even with that, I'm okay. I don't always rejoice in it, but I do accept it. The physical consequences of getting older are just fine by me. It's the psychological ones that have been nagging at me.

Everyone seems to have their own mental "laundry list" of what it means to be a successful individual by my age. Though well-intentioned, the gentle (and not-so-gentle) hints of "you're not getting any younger" and "what are you waiting for?" (among others) have the same effect as a branding iron applied directly to the back of my neck. While it would great to have a stable career or a happy marriage by now, and while I do love children, none of these are required for success. Let me rephrase that. For some people, those are the marks of success in life. For others, like me, there are other things that come first.

I'm not going to give a self-appreciating list of my many accomplishments. I know them, God helped me attain them, and that's enough. I'm not sitting on my haunches, feasting greedily on the efforts of others - I'm actively pursuing something, and I'm working HARD. No career, no marriage, no kids, but by golly, I am still successful. I'm where God wants me, I'm doing what He wants me to do, and I'm loving it - brother, that right there is success. Gleaming, golden success. It may not get much glory for me yet, but it's enough that I should be entering 26 with my head held high.

Despite all that, 26 is still a mountain to be conquered. It still intimidates. It still makes me sit up, eyes wide, and say aloud "Am I really getting that old that quickly?!" To those who have already scaled this particular height, my consternation and mental whiplash must seem a bit silly. Compared to 40, 50, 60, and beyond, 26 is still a relative infant. To someone staring it in the face, however, it's a little daunting. Where did all the time go?

One of my dearest friends is also approaching this particular summit, and is also grappling with the angst and the psychological side effects. Together, we have agreed to tackle 26 with grace and attitudes befitting the plucky, sassy dames that we are. In that spirit, we have both committed to a list of 26 things to get done before 26 smacks us in the face and takes over from where 25 left off. Maybe then we can turn the tables and be the ones smacking 26 in the face! Several items are the same for us, while some are unique to our own needs and desires. For fun, I've opted to share my list. Some of it is frivolous, geared toward greeting 26 with an attitude of humor and merriment. The rest is more serious, in order to meet 26 with maturity and self-improvement. At any rate, I'm certainly going to "get my kicks before 26!"

(NOTE: Items are listed in no particular order, since I have decided not to add any weight of importance. I'd rather just do them all, and not worry about which things carry more significance.)

1. Find something I've never tried at Starbucks and try it, but with creative alterations.
2. Find a truly odd nail color and paint my toenails with it.
3. Attempt to locate aviator sunglasses that don't make me look like an evil bug from Hades.
4. Buy and try something new from the foreign food section at the grocery store.
5. Celebrate my birthday in a way that I have never celebrated any other birthday.
6. Get a toe ring.
7. Spend more time basking in the outdoors; take some downtime from stress.
8. Create something artsy to wear on "that fateful day." (most likely jewelry)
9. Add something reminiscent of childhood to my wardrobe (i.e. jelly sandals, a flowered hair accessory, a plastic headband).
10. Make a conscientious effort to listen a whole lot more.
11. Have an old movie marathon with the theme of "Suave Leading Men that I Would Love to Bring Back from the Dead and Marry." (obviously, Cary Grant will be well-represented during this upcoming film marathon)
12. Experiment with scallops.
13. Live backwards for one day (meals, general activities, etc.).
14. Do a completely spontaneous act of random kindness for a friend.
15. Do something to my hair that involves temporary color (and no, it is not going to wind up burgundy again - that much is resolved!).
16. Re-read the three most influential novels in my life: Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and The Perilous Gard.
17. Memorize Psalm 73:21-26. Try to live with it in mind more often.
18. Finish one of the short stories that I have started writing and then abandoned.
19. Make a list of good things from age 25 and tack it up on my bulletin board. Read it often.
20. Find three new ways to cook asparagus (it's my favorite vegetable, but I'm in a rut).
21. Improve my time management skills.
22. Explore a place in Virginia that I have never explored.
23. Research a topic that I know absolutely nothing about, just for the fun of being better-informed.
24. Go for two whole days without reading the news.
25. Finish one of the projects that I have started and left dangling.
26. Take Jasper hiking

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"