Thresholds

For some reason I remembered this morning the day I turned fourteen.  I was so unholy excited I told EVERYONE.  By everyone, I mean everyone.  The train conductor, the ticket checker at the train station, the waiter at the coffee shop where I had breakfast, and all my classmates and teachers.  It became a joke for my teachers, because I had been telling them about it for DAYS.

In retrospect, I have absolutely no idea why.  I mean, it was a nice birthday.  I had my friends over.  I got several books as gifts, and I think my mom bought me boots.

I suspect it was the perception of a threshold.  Fourteen, for some reason, impressed me as grown up, an age at which I could be courted, an age at which I could move on from the sort of semi-independence of a tween, to the real world.

I think a lot of us — possibly more a lot of me — have that sort of impatience to grow up.  When I was three or four, I remember being upset at wasting time being a kid, when I could be out and doing stuff.  Only I didn’t know how to do the stuff I wanted to do (at that age, mostly travel and “work” which was a nebulous thing, but patently very important) and so I was forced to wait.

Back then people told me to enjoy childhood/tweenhood/adolescence/young adulthood.

Yeah, I know this is normal.  But I never told my kids that, because I’ve found each new stage of life has proven to be more fun, and oh, yeah, I wouldn’t go through my teenage years again for half the time and double the pay.  Each stage of life finds me more competent, and therefore able to DO and engage more with the world.  Which is (isn’t it?) what we’re here for.

Oh, sure, I wouldn’t mind sending my MIND back to my twenties, say, so I had warning of things, like what was ahead for indie, and also so I was more trained than anyone could be at that age.  But barring that, no, I wouldn’t want to relieve it.

The thing about being young is that one is so afraid of so many things, and so many of them stupid.  I spent half of my life terrified of giving offense, of saying something not socially approved, of thinking divergent thoughts.  Half a life is enough to waste on that, and I’m glad to be over it.

I can’t say I’m very excited about my birthday today.  It’s a birthday.  But something brought to mind that long ago birthday, something made me think, some commonality between them.

And I realized, like that long ago birthday, this birthday is a threshold.  I’m standing at the gateway to a life different than what I’ve known for the last years — long enough years to be a lifetime back when humans were more short-lived — and I know it because of the way I’ve had to adapt. Oh, sure, in recent years a lot of the onerous duties of motherhood have gone by the way side.  I no longer think of meal times as ordeals by interruption, where I had to cut up meat, right glasses, etc, and only afterwards could consider eating, unless there was another emergency and there was no time.  (I think it’s where I’ve acquired my very bad habit of grazing.  Why bad?  Because I tend to concentrate on things I can grab and carry.  It’s not as bad now that I am low carb.  A cheesestick is a cheesestick, but I remember when the kids were little, eating a whole bag of marshmallows, because it was on the counter and I could grab one at a time when I walked by.

But there are still things.  In the last few years my main mommy function has been making sure they’re up and ready for college; cooking breakfast so I can foist it on them on their way out the door; washing their clothes if they’re having exams and I see signs of recycling; losing afternoons to them when they want to talk.  That sort of thing.

It’s weird to not have those interruptions.  I keep expecting them and not getting them.

Which brings us to “well the last four to five years have been miserable for writing” and yes, part of it was the hypothyroidism, but the other part is that I do better with a regular schedule, which I lost once the kids went to college.  THAT at least should be better.

And I’m finding a lot of other things that should be better (more as I get new glasses and start driving again.)  I remember my parents going through this.  I know that is going to sound weird, but I was the much younger child, and my presence wasn’t enough to hold the structure of the house.  Also, I was cursed independent, and was usually too busy for them to keep my schedule, or a schedule for me.  Also, I cooked for myself and took care of my own clothes.

So the routine of the house gave way, once my brother married.  And suddenly I discovered my parents were able to do things like “Today we went to the beach.  Make yourself a sandwich.”  Or knocking at my door on a weekend and going “Wanna go visit such and such place?  Come one.”  And I’d go if I didn’t have a test that week.

The way to describe it is that after years of being tied down to child care, they became more flexible.  We too are finding more flexibility.  Not extreme, since Dan still has to work, but things don’t need to be done the way they always were.  And I can either go more froo froo in cooking — because I’m not working around kids’ likes and dislikes — or announce “today is grab it yourself” with a clear conscience.

But more than all of that, I have a feeling that there is more, that I’m about to embark on a life as different from the last 24 years as my life as a teen was from young married life.  How?  I don’t know.  It’s not old age, yet.  That will come, but as my dad said, thank heavens these days the time between 55 and 75 is not old age, but a kind of new maturity.  Yes, you have things that slow you down, but modern medicine is wonderful, and they don’t need to STOP you.  You have to be more careful about your sleep and your exercise, and what you eat, because you’ll pay for it, but you’re not yet noticeably impaired.

This is something our ancestors didn’t have.  It is possible, now, to start a career after the kids and have a full career, for most people.  Which is good.

I loved having the kids, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, either their childhood or my friendship (unlooked for, but it happened) with the adults they’ve become.

But now I have time to concentrate on the career and to discover other things.  Stand by as I pivot to it, and get rid of my last reflexes of worrying about the kids every hour  of the day.

I have a feeling there are things I don’t even understand yet, which will make these years very rewarding.

I’m crossing the threshold into a new place, a new phase of life.

I wonder what it holds.

147 responses to “Thresholds

  1. Happy birthday, Sarah!

  2. I wouldn’t go through my teenage years again for half the time and double the pay.

    There are those who are nostalgic for (USA) High School years and say those are/were the best days of their/our lives. Those monsters scare me.

    • Things were probably great if you were in the feetball or band tracks. Meh for most people. And plain hell for a handful.

      If I were forced to revisit those years… I’m a *lot* meaner now than I was then, and I’d pass some of the misery back uphill.

    • High school had its good and bad. I wouldn’t WANT to go through it again, but if I had to, I could probably handle it. Middle school on the other hand was the closest that I hope I ever get to Hell, and I wouldn’t do THAT again for anything!

      The part of my life that I’d do again if I had the choice was college*. I had no responsibilities except to learn interesting things, where that could be defined as anything from abstract algebra to Old Norse runes. I was on a synchronized swimming team, which essentially amounted to playing in the water while there was music going on. Someone else was responsible for cooking for me and cleaning up most of the spaces I used; the meals were usually tasty, and on the rare times they weren’t, I had the resources to go across the street and get chicken fingers and french fries (and the biology that would let me eat those chicken fingers and fries). My friends all lived down the hall, and it was a matter of seconds to summon them all if I got a sudden urge to have a movie night. I knew it couldn’t last, but damn, it was fun while it did.

      * = I should specify that the “college” I’d want to go back to would be the college I went to as opposed to the “college” of the Special Snowflakes who would need to stop the Old Norse class so that anyone triggered by the thorn rune could go cry into a blankie and deal with their trauma by coloring pictures of kittens or something.

      • I seem to have a bit of nostalgia for every period of my life — even, to some extent, junior high and elementary school, despite the bullying I suffered — but I think I would especially like re-living college, with one change: that I could be married during at least part of that time, and share that time with my wife.

        Every so often I have a memory that I think about, and I wish I could experience the memory that the event was based on again. The thing is, though, that doing so is literally impossible: part of the reason the experience was memorable was that it was some sort of threshold from inexperience and ignorance to experience and knowledge, and there’s no way to restore that ignorance (and I don’t want to do that! I treasure the memories of those events!)….

        So I have to make due with moving on in life, and doing what I can to find more such experiences….

      • Middle school on the other hand was the closest that I hope I ever get to Hell, and I wouldn’t do THAT again for anything!

        I right there with ya on that! I could easily handle the jackholes who upset me so much in High School, but Middle School even had bad teachers. Although my preference for imagining my mind going back to inhabit my younger body is to go all the way back to age four, so I could restructure my entire life. But still, ninth grade would be an acceptable compromise.

        • Middle school, which for me was 5th and 6th grade (but don’t forget Latinos mature faster in general) WAS hell.

          • Because of building issues, ours was 4th through 9th. We knew from 6th though 8th was technically Junior High, but when you went to the “big building” in the 4th Grade, it was like going to Middle School now.

            This raises the issue of how much of Middle School behavior is expected behavior and not developmental. In the 4th Grade we were expected to “tighten up” study and behavior-wise.

          • I think I matured about four years behind everyone else. Except that when I’ve been to High School reunions, people tell me that I was like the adult in the class. Pretty sure that was just because I hung out with crusty old men a lot between the ages of four and fourteen.

      • College was awesome. Of course I was 33-38 so it was a bit different than most.

        Happy birthday Sarah! My Latvian wife and I are hosting a Latvian Independence Day party for the Reno Latvians. Now I have two reasons to celebrate. 😁

        • From the time I attended college to some years later when I went back for some computer programming courses for work, there was a marked change. I couldn’t believe how students floated in and out of class. But it was shear delight when, toward finals, one went to the professor and asked what he could do for extra credit, and the professor just laughed.

    • While I do regret the various learning opportunities I squandered, consider the reading I could have done, and think on the general good health and fitness I had — you still could not pay me enough to go through those years again.

      When I look around me and see that their are many people who have not advanced their social paradigm since high school it gives me pause.

    • People who say, “These are the best years of your life,” to teenagers are either lying or amnesiac. I tell teens that puberty doesn’t finish up until about 21 or 22, and suddenly the hormones smooth out, and things get a lot easier simply because you don’t have the wacky mood swings for no reason.

    • No, I can understand people who want to go back to high school, particularly junior and senior years, although I don’t share the nostalgia.
      But, as mentioned above, people who want to back to middle school? Those people are messed up.

    • Oh, I’d LOVE to go back to High School or Junior High. Remember the closing scene of _The Silver Chair_ , where Jill and Eustice return in armor with friends from Narnia and render justice to the brats and bullies? THAT’ show I’d go back to Junior High or High School. There was a reason I dreamed of having a mecha swoop down and rescue me.

      • I have no bad memories of junior high or senior high, or grade school, or college. OTOH, no great memories, either; just vague memories. Never went to HS reunions. It seems pretty much like my life started when I got into the Air Force.

        • Pa got tired of being “invited” (all but demanded, really) to HS reunions. Finally marked one invite letter envelope [DECEASED: RETURN TO SENDER]. Some years later someone showed him that letter. “Yeah, we got the hint.”

    • Patrick Chester

      “I’m in a hostile environment, I’m completely unprepared, I’m surrounded by people who probably wanna kick my ass… it’s like being back in high school!” -Johnny Cage, in the cheesy but fun Mortal Kombat movie.

  3. Good luck and happy birthday.

  4. Happy birthday, Sarah.

  5. And, oh yes, Happy Birthday – or Anniversary thereof.

  6. Happy Birthday,

    Remember, age is just a number. Sometimes its just a really big number.

  7. How odd. The day I turned twenty-seven I spent cheerfully going about announcing “I’m Three!”

    On my next birthday I fully intend to enjoy announcing “I’m Two!” or perhaps “I’m Four!” or even “I’m Eight!” So many possibilities, so many options, so many choices.

    Happy Birthday, may you enjoy many more.

    • Wouldn’t that make you three cubed?

    • Many years ago a friend and I came up with the concept of “default age,” the age you act when there’s no one around who expects you to act like an adult. It was a liberating concept; we both found that we defaulted to about 5 or 6, while some of the most annoying people we knew seemed to default to about 14…

      • I’m about 8, but when Robert and I are together alone any length of time, we become 13 year old BOYS. Since he tends to be my buddy on long expeditions (“There’s this wood stain I want they only sell in this tiny shop on the other side of Denver/Fort Collins/Boulder) the jokes devolve to levels no sane person should listen to.

      • I like this notion, though I suspect I’d probably default to something more in one’s late 70s: in a lot of ways I’ve been a prudish old fogey since I was about eight. Give me a quiet house, a stack of good books, a comfy couch, a regularly refreshed cup of tea, no need to worry about anything and no obligation to deal with people harping on the latest moral outrage, and the ability to doze off and wake up again whenever I feel like it, and I’d be well content.

      • Hrm… I wonder what my default age might be. Not sure I can judge it accurately myself. Around 9-12 at a first approximation. Well, my 9-12. And it is only an approximation.

  8. Happy Thanksgiving! No, wait. Have a great 14th birthday all over again! Aw, heck, have a good one today, Sarah. 🙂

  9. Happy Birthday!

  10. Hey, I share a birthday with our hostess. That’s cool. The calendar says that I’m 36 today, but I still think of myself as about 12. I keep worrying that eventually someone is going to figure out that they allowed a 12-year-old to drive a car, get married, and hold down a job, and then I’m going to be in serious trouble.

    At any rate, many happy returns of the day, Sarah! May your “second adulthood” be long and filled with fun.

    • I no longer think about my birthdays as celebratory events. Some years ago my father had just come through heart surgery and was still in CICU on that day, and that just put things into perspective. Since then, it’s a day that signifies being a year older, no more, no less.

      My family members birthdays, though, I feel differently about.

      • My 14th birthday was the day my grandfather died. We got the news that morning.

        By the time the edges had worn off that memory, I was old enough that birthdays mostly meant “my age is now X” when filling out forms.

        Of course, the main reason I look forward to Christmas is the family gatherings rather than the gifts, too. Maybe because I’m old enough now that gifts aren’t that important to me, while relationships are.

        • I’ve an uncle who wasn’t expected to live out a cousin’s birthday. He kept asking “What time is it?” When she told him it was after midnight, he died soon after. We figure he was holding on so he couldn’t die on her birthday.

    • Happy birthday. I think of myself as 8, so you figure that.

  11. Fourteen, for some reason, impressed me as grown up ..

    Fourteen was “Marryin’ Age” for a girl in many parts of the world. [Excise snarky Woody Allen joke] Fourteen was the age of Mattie Ross, of True Grit.


    Old enough to negotiate a deal and bind a contract.

  12. Happy Birthday
    Happy Birthday
    May the cities in your wake
    Burn like candles on your cake
    Happy Birthday

  13. “losing afternoons to them when they want to talk.” — That sounds like one of the real transient blessing of having kids to me.

  14. Happy birthday!

  15. Christopher M. Chupik

    “I wonder what it holds.”

    Bad men and carp.

  16. Happy birthday to you,
    This blog is a zoo.
    We’re a great bunch of monkeys.
    And you throw carp at us, too.

    Happy birthday, Sarah! May you have many more returns.

  17. OMINOUS PORTENTS, that’s what it holds, according to my lower back. OMINOUS PORTENTs, I say.

  18. Happy birthday, and many happy returns!

  19. wanderingmuses

    Oh I hated 14. That’s when they finally found out why I was so weak and sick. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. I came to grips with that long ago, though. The age I loved and looked forward to is 50. I never thought I’d live to 50 considering my health and my bad habits but I made it. Everything else is gravy. Fifty used to be when you were considered a senior citizen and, in my mind, it still is and I think that’s fantastic! I’m an elder of the tribe finally. Not too young to be dismissed by older folks who see me as a kid. Not too young to be the age of parents of teenagers so no eye rolls from the tween/teen/young adult set. I’m now taken seriously. Some of my doctors are younger than me these days. They listen to me when I tell them something else new is happening. I finally feel heard! Fifty brought me a major loss in my life. A dramatic change in setting and lifestyle because of it. But I’m still thrilled with life! Fifty is freeing to me. With a little luck, 51 will come about in a little over two months and I just know it’s going to be even better!

  20. That’s funny. If you were telling everyone about your birthday when you turned 14, I would have expected to have you mention it on your blog. I don’t recall you doing that, and I’ve been here for at least a couple of years…

  21. Happy Birthday. I don’t want to go back to 14 that was miserable. 21 and single with what I know now that would be better.

  22. Happy Birthday Sarah

  23. 25. I’d go back to 25, but not younger. Well, I’d take the _body_ anytime from 18 to 30.

    Now I’m in California taking care of my parents, and realizing that if I age the way they have, I have 20 good solid years before the slide into the new old age begins.

  24. Please accept my most felicitous best wishes on the anniversary of your birth, dona Sara!!

    Also, Hippo Birdies Two Ewe!!!

  25. Wishing you a very Happy Birthday Sarah and many more!

  26. Congrats, best wishes, go take care of yourself, enjoy the day!

  27. Happy Birthday! 🙂

    I doubt that I could relive anytime before going into the military. I still don’t know how I survived to get to that point (Let’s just say my spouse hasn’t met anyone in my “family”.)

  28. Happy Birthday, Sarah!!!

    And if I could ‘go back’, it would be mostly to undo injuries I gave unintentionally through my Geeky lack of social graces. I note that I am *still* a Nerd, but I am, slowly, getting better.

    • Aah… yeah, if I were given high school to relive, among other things I hope I would be nicer to the guy who was probably not actually joking when he asked me out in front of our entire math class. Sorry, man. (Mind, I’m not sure anything would have made the situation *not* awkward.)

      I’d really hate to change too much and miss out on my baby, though.

      • Ditto, to the girl who was trying to be nice but caught me in a major defensive sarc-fest. Didn’t know how to apologize at that age…

        • *mumbles something about being unable to tweak certain past events that need it*

          • The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit. Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

            Sometimes the moving finger opts, in lieu, to content itself with gestures impolite.

  29. The thought of being a teenager again is my number one argument against reincarnation.

  30. Happy Birthday!

  31. Happy Birthday Ms. Sarah! And many happy returns to the day.

    I’m a long-time lurker here; your blog has helped keep me sane on more than a few occasions these last few years 🙂

  32. The happiest of birthdays to you!

    I shall not sing – no sense in unduly depleting the carp supply.

    Odd thing is, we’re about the same age (can’t remember whether it’s three months or 9 months), and about in the same phase re children in the house. But I am finding that I am getting more scheduled with them being independent of me now. Probably because I can do longer range planning than whatever I find when doing the backpack dump at night… (My kids resented that, although they knew I wasn’t searching for drugs – I was searching for the notice of bake sale / concert / volleyball away trip / whatever that should have been in there three days before.)

  33. I had the unfortunate experience in my 40’s of working in a place where I was the only person my age who hadn’t lived there their whole life. It was seriously like a high school. Even worse, I was the only veteran in my department. None of them had the slightest understanding of any of my sea stories. All the stories they told of what they did last week and what they did 20 years ago involved the same people, the same places, and the same situations. None of them had gone away to college. None of them travelled anywhere on vacation. I honestly thought of all of them as juveniles in adult bodies, and let that slip more then once. That was hell, but it paid well. Finally found another job that paid as well and bailed.

    I wouldn’t go back and do anything different when younger and make better or different decisions. Because if I did, unless fate really exists, It would prevent me from being at the right place and the right time to meet my wife.

    • Your 40’s workplace sounds like the place I now work. The New Guy on the shift worked for a chemical company for 33 years. He left there and came to work in the fire fighting foam division. So after 33 years, he still parks in the same parking lot (his former employer leases land from his new one). All the other guys and the gals I deal with outside of management grew up in the area, the older have some who worked at either the paper mills, or the shipyard next door, but several are on their 25th to 30th years at this place (and they will tell you how horrible it is to work there too. . . 30+ years of hating your job?), The younger guys are all locals too, and the few with college went to the local U.W.
      I sorta feel lucky that in 1984 I couldn’t find work in the area, so I moved a few miles . . .err . . . States away. I went to New Orleans, then 20 years later move to Texas, and now, back up here, though I am still 60 miles or so from “home” where I grew up.

      • Heh. Worked in an Aluminum foundry back in the early ’90s where half the friggin’ employees were all from the same extended family (between 40 and 50 of them). A couple of them getting ready to retire had worked at that company since they were 18.

        • I have known similar, when in La and Tx, but they actually went places in their lives.
          Then again I knew people who’d not been out of New Orleans metro in their lives.

  34. Happy birthday, Ma’am! And many more to come, of course.

    I’ve been crossing some thresholds of my own just lately. I turned exactly mumblety last month. (Don’t tell anyone!) And just today, I finally got some new fiction out the door – my first experiment in doing a serial. (If anyone’s interested, you can click on my name above and read all about it.)

  35. I’ve been informed by my mother that you never stop worrying about your kids. The frequency may lessen, but you never give up the habit entirely.

    Also, Happy Birthday!

  36. “Happy Birthday to you!
    If you sing this we’ll sue!
    Because we own the copyright to
    ‘Happy Birthday To You!'”

  37. Birthy Hapday Milady. Hope it was a good day, and hope your party is a festive one.

  38. Christopher M. Chupik

    When I was fourteen, I discovered the works of Robert E Howard, so I guess it wasn’t a complete wash.

  39. Happy Birthday!!! 🙂

  40. Also, happy birthday.

  41. Happy Birthday and as the Brits say, Many happy returns of the day!

  42. Happy Birthday, Young un.

  43. Also, here, have a late birthday present, courtesy of the truly disturbed minds over at Lena Dunham’s website and three guys with time enough to fisk leftist…well, see for yourself. (Click on the highlighted portions for full effect)

    http://genius.it/www.lennyletter.com/politics/a613/hillary-clinton-is-more-than-a-president

  44. Happy birthday, and thanks for all the reads!

  45. I doubt there are any regulars here who do not also visit Power Line for the week in cartoons, but if any there are …


    This is why you should go there.

    powerlineblog[DOT]com/archives/2016/11/the-week-in-pictures-the-trumpening-sequel-edition.php

  46. Many happy returns of the day.

  47. As of the day before yours, I am now a single record. Happy Birthday, a few days late.