Thirty-six is probably a meaningless birthday to most people but it's had a little circle around it on my calendar for a very long time. I discovered somewhere in my mid-twenties that Julia Child didn't go to culinary school until she was 36. Julia. Child. Julia Child who basically brought french cooking to America, revolutionized cook books and pioneered televised cooking shows, did not discover what she really wanted to do with her life until she was 36! That knowledge has simmered in the back of my head as a comfort and an inspiration whenever I feel panicked about the state of my own life's purpose. One Christmas visit to Washington D.C. I even dragged my sister-in-law to the Smithsonian so we could go look at Julia's kitchen.
Well. I turn 36 on Sunday. And I think I have as many questions about "what I want to be when I grow up" as I did when I was 26. I turned 30 with a big party, a whirlwind work trip to New York, a college girlfriend reunion in San Francisco and a half marathon that ended in fire fighters in tuxedos giving us Tiffany necklaces. And guys-it's been uphill since then. But to be perfectly candid, I'm struggling a bit with this particular birthday.
Some of it is science. The baby years are closing. And I know-I have heard ALLLLLL the stories about your aunt or cousin or lady in your ward who managed to have a baby IN HER FORTIES. I know. It can be done. Old maids get married. Elderly women have kids. And I know that people tell you those things to make you feel better. They are great stories. They do not make single women feel better.
Some of it is career. And again-I know. The Olympics. Remember how they were insane and amazing? Nobody wants to peak at 35. It's way, way exciting to think that I have to come up with some entirely new dreams but it's also way, way scary. "Summer Games" have been on the list for just about as long as "Eiffel Tower with sister" and I knocked them both out in a six week span this year. The problem with big goals is that as you meet them, you discover you have developed something of an appetite for crossing things off. I don't want to get stuck, I don't want to stop growing, I don't want to get left behind.
All of that said-I can't let this birthday kill the nice "2012 is awesome" buzz I have going and I owe it to the 27 and 32 and 34 year old versions of me who were so comforted not to freak out just because we hit the Julia year and we don't have the Cordon Bleu lined up. So for the first time in my whole life, I'm swallowing my discomfort about making a big deal over my birthday and I'm kind of not shutting up about it. I decided to celebrate Birthday Week this year. I even started a hashtag on Twitter so I can be annoying about it there too.
Last night I went to a concert. On a Monday. Today I ate ice cream THREE TIMES and donated money to a charity. Tomorrow I have a date with a hot 27 year old who is likely not marriage material but he's got beautiful eyes and has a way of calling me "woman" that makes me forget I'm a feminist. And thursday I fly to Utah to spend the rest of birthday week chasing nephews, riding bikes with my brother, going to hot yoga and drinking gigantic sodas with my sister-in-law, and eating a lot of things I will have to sweat way too hard to work off because I am getting old.
And then. Thirty-six. I'm going to channel Julia every day and let this be a year of trying new things and hanging onto the right old things and being brave and being generous and remembering the advice I gave an anxious friend tonight which is this...