I recently had a birthday and went around telling everybody it was my 30th. Apparently I’ve hit early senility, because it was actually my 31st. Mark was kind enough to keep it a secret from me until I figured it out for myself, during the course of a conversation that went a little something like this:
“Honey, can you believe we’ve been married nearly six years? It seems like it was just yesterday. Wasn’t it romantic? I was so happy and in love, just twenty-fi-… wait a minute.”
I can’t keep track of the passing years, but I can do basic math. Much to my sorrow. I thought I had made my peace with being 30, but losing a whole year right off the top like that really stings.
And of course it brings up the question of whether my life measures up to this new, adjusted number. It doesn’t help that I’d already been feeling a touch… behind. At least in the career department.
I find myself looking at successful writers and saying, “Ok, sure, she’s a huge success. But she’s 38. I’ve got 8 (oops, 7!) years on her. I can still beat her!” And other such nonsense that shouldn’t really mean a thing to me — and yet somehow, in one insecure little part of my heart, does.
Because I’ve been responding to “What do you do?” with “I’m working on a novel” for a long time. And it sounds good and people act impressed, but there’s a part of me that wonders “For how much longer?” How long can you really be “working on a novel” before you have to just go ahead and admit that you’re a failure?
Never mind that it’s the second novel, that I shelved the first one for good reasons, and that this one is immeasurably better. Never mind that it says things I’ve been trying to say for a long time. It ain’t done, and it ain’t published, and so in a very real way I don’t have a career — not yet.
And I’m 31. And it scares me a little.