Look at Me, I’m Thirty-Three
I don’t know about you but the past year went really fast. Actually, the past three zoomed by–didn’t I just turn 30?
I’ll be honest, I dreaded this birthday more than the past three, partly because I’m in my “Living Between” year, so it feels a little “neither here nor there.” My 30th was pretty great (and hard to top, see above link), 31 was a new “prime,” and 32 was an even number (I tend to do better in even years than odds, except the half-decades, which are fun for different reasons). I’m not at one of the milestones (the decades and half-decades), and 32, when you say it, has the nice ooo at the end, like in cute.*
For some reason 33 sounded old, not old-old but older than I feel. Like mid-thirties instead of early.** Like middle-age-is-around-the-corner. Maybe it’s because I’m not where I thought I would be at this age, or because I’m now older than my mom was when she gave birth to any of her kids.***
Or maybe it’s because my birthday is always always cold. And dark. And snow-covered. It’s two months after Christmas, so we’ve been without decoration or celebration for a while, it’s pretty soon after Valentine’s Day (which is not my favorite holiday), and a lot of people hate February. My birthday always falls at the point of winter when all I want to do is find a cave, snuggle into a pile of blankets, and slumber like a bear through March, April, to awaken in the May sunshine. I had zero energy this year to try and plan something; I’d love to celebrate in August.
But then I saw this article by Erin Skarda in Time from March 29, 2012, entitled “Survey: People Aren’t Happiest Until They Reach Age 33.” In it Skarda writes, “‘The age of 33 is enough time to have shaken off childhood naiveté and the wild scheming of teenaged years without losing the energy and enthusiasm of youth,’ psychologist Donna Dawson said in the survey’s findings. ‘By this age innocence has been lost, but our sense of reality is mixed with a strong sense of hope, a ‘can do’ spirit, and a healthy belief in our own talents and abilities.'”
The article went on to say, “Many respondents claimed that their happiness at 33 came from fulfillment in their professional lives, as well as having a support system of family and friends. …
Additionally, more than half of survey takers who chose 33 as the magic number said they did so because life at that age was more fun — probably because they had more money to enjoy it.”
After that, thirty-three seemed a lot better. Sure, it was still the age Jesus was when he died, but plenty of other people have lived long full lives past that point.
And then the day came. And a coworker brought semi-professional homemade cupcakes (two flavors! see above), and other coworkers brought other goodies–cookies and fruit and bagels and chips & salsa and pop, and just when I came down from the sugar high, I met up with the women in my Dubbers writing group, and there were more goodies: cherry liqueur and homemade hot toddies with currant juice, both from my friend’s garden. Almond cake! Spicy guacamole! Bread and cheese and chocolates. People sang to me and I blew out my candles and it all felt really good and celebratory and warm, like a great big hug from the universe.
My friend lead the cherry liqueur toast with a poem by Julia Alvarez, the first lines of which are “Everything that happens to me these days/is dangerous with love. …” and the last lines of which are “…But my house, though protected/with charms, can’t block the spell mortality/has cast, thirty-two, I turn thirty-three.”
I got goosebumps. You should check out the full poem here. And for those of you who are thirty-three, or turn thirty-three this year, I hope the survey is right about this year for all of us.****
*Yeah, I’m weird.
**I was thinking 30, 31, 32 = early, 33, 34, 35, 36 = mid, 37, 38, 39 = late. BUT then my friend told me the decades are in their own category because you say “I’m 30,” when you’re thirty, but “I’m in my early thirties” when you’re 31, 32, etc. SO 31, 32, 33 are early thirties, therefore I’m still in my early thirties. Whew.
***Which, I know, means nothing about my life. But it still sometimes feels like I’m behind.
****Even if Tom Cruise would break up with us now.
Tune in on Tuesday to Bitter Critic for another Cinéma Atroce! This week: Rubber, a weird little French film about a tire that kills people with its mind. Whoa.