November 25, 2006
It beats the alternative.
Well. Yeah. When I just come out and say it like that, it sounds even worse.
This year, however, I find that my feelings about my birthday, usually pretty straightforward ("oh, fuck THIS"), are a little more complicated. While I'm not in love with turning thirty-nine and particularly not thrilled about being a short year away from, you know, thirty-ten, I'm not looking for something sharp or a bus to step in front of, either.
So yeah, I see that as a step up.
If I stop and take stock of my life the day before my birthday, I find that it's not a bad report at all.
I'm developing new relationships and understanding my old ones and have a pretty good sense of the people in my life and what I mean (and sometimes don't mean) to them. At thirty-nine, I am developing a sense of self that has at its core my own understanding of who I am rather than someone else's. I'm not there yet (does anyone ever actually get there?), but I feel closer than I ever have before.
At thirty-nine, I am feeling healthier than I have in a long time, aside from my little kidney misadventure last month. My diabetes is under control, enough so that I've stopped wearing my medic alert tag unless I'm traveling and I don't really think about the Beedies all that much. I take my meds, I eat reasonably intelligently and I spend an hour a day on the treadmill. I'm losing weight, my eyesight has returned to its normal badness, and I can feel my feet again. Everything works the way it's supposed to, and I'm not Jabba the Hutt anymore.
As far as that goes, I don't see it when I look in the mirror, but I've lost enough weight that when I went shopping yesterday for some clothes for New York City, I found that I have gone down ANOTHER size. This puts me at the same size jeans I wore in high school. Let me say that again. High school. And I honestly don't remember the last time I wore a shirts in a large, but I suspect I was still receiving lunch money at the time.
I will turn thirty-nine as something I always wanted to be but never quite was: an author. The word still feels snotty and pretentious, but like your first pair of boots, the more I legitimately wear it, the more comfortable it feels. The day I mailed off my contract, I talked to my agent. She asked me if I planned to write more books, and when I said yes, she was pleased.
"I think you've got more books to write, Robert," she said in her unmistakable accent, that hard-to-nail-down Manhattan cadence, two parts vaguely British Empire and one part old Cary Grant movies. "Your book works because you are a talented writer. When you're in New York, I'd like to talk to you about a few ideas."
In two weeks, I'll be in New York City to talk about making the transition from online writer (okay, fine, blogger) to author, and the next day, I will walk into the Flatiron Building and the offices of St. Martin's Press, and I'll belong there. Thirty-nine is the year that becomes real.
Most of all, however, I turn thirty-nine with the unfamiliar but exhilarating feeling that Schuyler is going to be okay. In Austin, she was treated like a pretty little tragedy, one who would never be capable of using her Big Box of Words and who was expected to be a ward of the public school system until she was old enough to go home and live out her days with her heartbroken and aging parents.
Now Schuyler is actually learning in school, much of her time spent with mainstream students in a regular first grade classroom. She's got teachers and support people who talk about what she'll have to do to graduate high school and go on to college, not as "wouldn't that be grand?" pipe dreams but with the same level of expectation as any neuro-typical student. I turn thirty-nine with a child who is still strange and still broken, but who is also finding her own way and remains the most extraordinary person I have ever known.
So yeah, thirty-nine. I'm not thrilled about the idea, but I'm okay with it.
Not ready to talk about thirty-ten just yet, though. Baby steps.