Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Turning 40: On Not Teaching a New Dog Old Tricks

So today is my fortieth birthday. As I was falling asleep last night, my dear but annoying husband asked me if I had been pondering the significance of the occasion. I quickly mumbled "no" (had a mini-breakdown), rolled over and started to enjoy my 7 hours of mindless bliss.

I woke up to homemade cards and frozen waffles charmingly cut into the shapes of a four and zero. My card from the eldest said, "40 at last!", like I had been waiting for this momentous occasion my whole life. Oooh, if I were only 40, then I could really enjoy all those adult privileges like paying taxes and helping my kid learn her times tables. Yes, at last, I can start (most probably) the last half of my existence!

At last.

Chuckling, I thought about this statement while driving to teach English this morning. As I passed the tollbooth that asked me to "Please Take a Ticket!" in a rather snippy tone, I pondered what idiom I would review with my group today. Perhaps I would revisit the classic adage: "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." For some reason, this phrase always cracks my Japanese students up. Not only is it pertinent to their time in life (they are all retirees) but unfortunately, it now seemed to fit my situation as well.

I don't feel like an old dog, though.

I want to learn new tricks, like surfing and getting lost in places where I can't read the signs and serving others before myself. For the first time in my life, I feel comfortable in my skin, so much so that the vellum wrapping my bones actually seems new and different.

I'm also fairly tired of the old tricks. I'm not interested in keeping up with the Joneses and their premium vehicles. I don't care if their child learned her times tables in first grade and mine is still struggling to get it in the fifth. At least at this point, I'm against fake boobs, fake tans and cosmetic surgery for myself. This is me, lumps, white wrinkles and all. Take it or leave it.

I am literally exhausted of fearing life and other people's judgment about my choices and my body. Those are old tricks to keep the younguns in line and they are losing their persuasive power in my world. Frankly, I don't care what religion people follow or what their exterior life looks like. If fear informs their faith or their actions, I've decided to politely agree with whatever the person is saying/doing and move along to greener pastures. I literally don't have time to waste on nurturing relationships with people who are convinced that their way is perfect, or even worse, the only path to follow.

Don't get me wrong. In the end, I have no desire to go back to being "young", either in mind or body. Sure, it's important to stay in shape in my later years but it's not okay for me to obsess about my every body part. I am also still trying to shed those last vestiges of thinking I know everything...of thinking that my opinion actually affects anyone besides myself and my kids (for a few more years).

After much pondering, I've decided that I don't want to be a puppy.

I just want to be a new dog...one who loves to attempt novel things and fails often. And one who, at last, no longer gives credence to the old tricks that have kept her from growing up.