I was sure this outfit made me look 20
When I was a kid, I couldn’t imagine what the adult version of me would look like. The only image I could picture was a generic brunette woman in high heels, miraculously free of freckles, holding a stylish clutch in one hand, and the upturned collar of a plaid blazer with the other – an image I probably borrowed from a model in a 1984 Spiegel catalog. I think I thumbed through the catalog’s pages and picked a future Colleen with just as much thought as it would have taken to decide upon the high-waisted, poly-blend, machine washable day-to-night stretch slacks that Colleen was wearing (slacks available in brown, black, crimson and navy).
But now, here I am – the adult Future Me; I’ve finally caught up with myself and am admittedly more excited to see what my kids will look like in 10 years, than what I will look like.
The arrival of Future Me has been on my mind for a couple of reasons. Not only does this week mark the one-year anniversary of the start of my saga with an incapacitating mystery brain illness and its iffy-turned-outstanding prognosis, but also, and more alarmingly….people born the same year as me have started turning 40.
We, the 1974ers, have been standing here holding our breath, waiting for our turn to jump into the 40’s abyss…an abyss I’m guessing smells like coffee, wine, car wax, chia seeds, and New Year’s Resolution gym sweat. We’ve already made our way through the 30’s abyss that was rife with kale, other wine, Black Fridays, parenting tips, and 5K’s.
I’ve been watching people gracefully handle their Zero Years– whether it’s 30, 40, 50, 60 or beyond – and how they choose to handle the new beginning the Zero allows them. They take a big trip, have a party, or sign up for a marathon. They write about it, too. They soul search, make a decision, change their hair, change their career, make a resolution, let go of something painful and, if all goes well, see the Zero for what it really is – a privilege.
We’ve made it! We’ve made it and the Zero rewards us with a chance to reset. Maybe we’ve been clinging a little too hard to that 9 year, but when we get to the Zero, it’s not an end, it’s a beginning; it’s a relief, and it’s a big deal.
Sure, 40 marks the beginning of getting to say “20 years ago” and still refer to a time in our adulthood. We check a different demographic box on the survey. We remember our parents in their 40’s when we thought they were so old. But now we know – they weren’t old, we were just young and dumb. It’s time to accept the reality that the NFL won’t be drafting us, and we might not get the chance to give the Academy Awards speech we wrote when we were 10.
But maybe we’re finally kinder to ourselves, and to each other while still enjoying the youthful luxury of expecting the best from ourselves, and each other. Maybe we’re still (or again) struggling to figure ourselves out. We’ve amassed actual life experience, and pray that it lifts us up instead of weighing us down. We’ve made mistakes, and we’ll make more, but maybe we’ll lean on that experience, and make smaller ones and fewer of them. Hopefully the Zero brings the wisdom that we’re not alone in this – whatever our “this” is.
It’s nice to have the company, and maybe in an inevitable moment of weakness, when we are comparing ourselves to each other and evaluating who’s accomplished what by when, the Zero will help us remember that not one of us is doing it exactly right, or exactly wrong. We each have sweetly unique stories to tell, augmented by all those Zeroes. I remind myself of this every day – when I’m feeling a bit lost, or unsure, or uppity. I reminded myself of this when my husband woke up on his 40th birthday, and somehow looked younger than he did the day before.
Let’s help each other greet the next decade warmly so we can move on to the next thing like “make dental appointment” and “take up the bass guitar,” and let’s be happy we made it all the way to Zero.
Happy 40th to all my fellow 1974 babies. By the way, 1974 gave the world a lot of stuff: “Happy Days,” “Good Times,” “Little House on the Prairie,” Shel Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” Stephen King’s “Carrie,” and Carl Bernstein’s “All the President’s Men.” 1974 brought you Leonardo DiCaprio, Jimmy Fallon, Elizabeth Banks, Christian Bale, Tiffani Amber-Thiessen, Lark Voorhies and Mark-Paul Gosselaar (that’s most of the “Saved by the Bell” cast right there), Ryan Seacrest, Amy Adams, Nelly, Cee Lo Green, Victoria Beckham, Derek Jeter, Lil Kim, Steve Nash, Carrie Brownstein, Kate Moss, Penelope Cruz, Alanis Morissette, Joaquin Phoenix, Eva Mendes, Jenna Fischer, Mekhi Phifer, Bear Grylls, Jewel, Da Brat and Hilary Swank. You have 1974 to thank for “Blazing Saddles,” “The Sting,” “The Godfather: Part II,” “Chinatown,” “Young Frankenstein,” ”The Conversation,” “The Towering Inferno,” and “Murder on the Orient Express.” In 1974, Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s timeless hit “Takin’ Care of Business,” was released as were Steve Miller’s “The Joker,” and Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets.” Don’t forget Connect 4, the Magna Doodle, Post-It Notes, the Rubik’s Cube, Hello Kitty, Dungeons & Dragons, liposuction, the Heimlich Maneuver, and Richard Nixon’s resignation.
You can find me on Instagram at colleenweems,
and Twitter @FulcrumChron