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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Leaving The Ingenue Behind.

I'm going to be 29 in a few short weeks.

I didn't expect this to feel like the big deal it does. With everything my 20's held I was pretty sure I'd be ready to be done with this decade. I've been told your 30's are where it's at, as an adult woman, and you know, that sounded like a pretty great promise. Stumble through this here, this awkward phase of adulthood, and on the other end you'll be able to sit back and kind of enjoy the struggle for what it was without having to actually struggle much anymore.

But then Kyle turned 29. And I freaked out a little. Because HOW IN THE HELL IS HE ALMOST THIRTY.

I mean logically, I get it, I know how to do math, but holy crap. I met him at the tail-end of 21. We celebrated his 22nd birthday together. We have literally spent the majority of our twenties together, but insert cliched phrase of how it felt like we met just yesterday here.

It doesn't really feel like yesterday, but you know what I mean. Seven years together sounds crazy. CRAZY.

But I'm digressing.

I've been thinking about this a lot, about why, rather suddenly, I'm all NOT TWENTY-NINE NOOOOOO because I've always felt older than my chronological age and other than the social milestones that accompany certain birthdays, the number hasn't much mattered to me other than when people are a wee surprised that I'm *only* fillintheagehere.

It kind of hit me, the other day, while watching TV (yes, same show, shut up) that I think part of my hang-up results from my acting days.

I began college as an acting major, after spending the entirety of my high school career giving my life over to the theatre. I know now, in retrospect, that I never really had "it" -- the ability to withstand the true artist's lifestyle with the starving and the rejection and the shit gigs and all that -- and though I'm bitter I was kicked out of that program I know that it was probably for the best because false hopes and all that.

But I think I never really shook the feeling -- no, desire -- of being "discovered" and becoming famous, in part, for my being who I am at a younger age. It wasn't necessarily in regards to acting, per se, but something creative for which I held talent ... generally something revolving around storytelling in one way or another, I guess. My secret fantasy, I guess you could say, was to be sort of an ingenue. To be that youthful, spirited presence with talents beyond her years and a wee bit of natural unaged beauty about her.

As I start to eye the calendar, however, it's becoming increasingly apparent that I will never be the child-like fresh breath to the world I always thought I'd somehow magically be.

Twenty-nine is a far cry from a girl wonder. The lines that are forming on my face make that plain as day every time I manage to look in the mirror. Twenty-nine is the brink of womanhood defined, personified, embodied by the holder of those numbers. Twenty-nine is the beginning of the rest of my adult existence until I pass into middle age and the new weights and descriptors that belong with that.

Twenty-nine is the last year of only the third decade I've spent upon this planet, the end of an era that taught me so much about life and love and who I am as a person, and that's kind of scary to stare down.

I don't get to be a kid anymore. The grey area between woman and child is separating into clearer streaks of black and white and that is just overwhelming, a bit, to me. I no longer can "pass" as a high schooler (and probably haven't been able to in years, but denial is a strong crutch) or even a college student, unless I said I was a grad student. The privilege of youth and yes, subsequently that of youthful beauty, is slipping through my fingers, and it's hard to feel like with it goes some of my relevance, because without that what am I but another woman who's good with words and knows her way around a few other things?

I've been comfortable in my role as a woman for a couple years now, but I only recently have understood that it has come with the subtle subtext of option, that I could slip in and out of adulthood and prolonged adolescence fairly easily because my age (and therefore to some extent my maturity until I proved otherwise) was ambiguous enough to provide me those masks to utilize as I saw fit. That fluidity, at least from my perspective, afforded me defense mechanisms in an array of arenas, and kept me safe from solid judgement by allowing me to wow someone with an aspect of my character, the caricature of me that I play outside my home and comfort zone, usually being that of my intelligence and maturity in cahoots with my age.

But as twenty-nine approaches with it's taunting sister thirty, the shield of that is disintegrating. By twenty-nine I should have my shit together, so to speak, as an adult, a mother, a wife, a participant in society. And for the most part, I kind of feel that I do, even if it is on my own terms. It's just the sting of knowing that accomplishments, for me, will now be less sensational because I'm no longer in my twenties. Publishing a book in your twenties is kind of monumental. Doing the same in your thirties is less so.

I've spent my entire life being told how smart I am, how gifted I am, how great I am and could continue to be as long as I stick to it. Thirty feels like the cut-off point for that being of any consequence, because I am no longer a kid-genius, but a smart woman with some experience under her belt.

I guess the crux of it is that I had secretly suspected that I would have "arrived" by now, but now I only have another year of my twenties to make that happen, ever the procrastinator especially in my own success. And that's not a complaint by any means, but just a sort of reality check.

I have to let go of the ingenue fantasy and embrace myself for the woman I've become. I have to be able to embrace getting older and reaching the peak of my easy self-maintenance, as it will only get harder from here to present myself in the ways to which I've grown accustomed. I have to get okay with the lines on my face and the slight loss of elasticity in my skin and embrace that my value is not solely based on the presentation of the myth of my youth but on what I have to offer the world with the other gifts I have been given through the life I've already lived.

I have to fully grow up. And while I think I'm ready, it doesn't make it any easier to let the fantasy die.