So apparently some time in February, I turned 46. I say “apparently” not because I’m experiencing some kind of early onset memory malfunction. No, I say that because I have not yet turned 46.
I’ve never been one of those people who dreaded a certain age, so this isn’t vanity speaking. If it was, ya’ll would have gotten an earful last year as I crossed over into my 45th year.
Some ages are cooler than others, marking milestones we’ve collectively decided are important. You get the privilege and freedom of driving when you turn 16 and two years later, at 18, you’re an official “adult.” (Those of you removed enough from being 18 understand fully why I put adult in quotes.)
Age 21 is a big one because until then we are all on our best behavior and alcohol has not crossed our lips until that moment. Ever.
Can’t forget 13, when you officially become a teenager. I’m not sure what benefits come with that one except you can now fully embrace the angst.
I remember 25 being a pretty big deal. That’s the year my car insurance rates went down. Talk about being an official adult.
Then 30 rolled around and I left my 20s behind, which weren’t terrible, but they did kind of drag on a bit too long.
Two years later, I became the “new” kid here at the VCNB. I was actually the youngest on staff for quite some time, which was weird. It was a bit of a reset for me I suppose.
Yes, I was in my 30s and had a couple of kids and a divorce under my belt, but I was still searching for my right place in the world. My raison d’être, if you will. I definitely seem to have found it here. If not, then at least I haven’t been fired. Either way, I’m calling it a win.
Since starting at the News-Bulletin, I’ve celebrated a lot of birthdays. If memory serves, I wrote about turning the big 4-0. The main focus of my ramblings was about how weird and kind of awkward 39 was. Nothing bad happened, it was just … 39. I mean, what do you do with that?
So here I am, six years later, once again contemplating my age. To bring this full circle, here’s what happened. Sometime earlier this year — and it’s funny to be nostalgic about the first couple of months of 2020, but look at it now — I was asked my age.
“46” popped out of my mouth without much thought. That was quickly followed by, “Oh, no, 45.” There was some awkward chuckling and some serious doubt, but we moved on.
And then it happened again. And again. It got to the point where even without prompting, I’d refer to myself as 46 years old. My brain was so annoyed with me.
Every time I’d do it, there would be an internal, heavy sigh. “Really, Julia? You. Are. 45.”
Right, right … yep. I’m 45.
I don’t know, man. I’m genuinely not aware of any anxiety about beginning the second half of my 40s. I mean, 50 is the new 20, or so I’ve heard. OK, it’s what I’m telling myself, so shush.
It’s like five months ago my mind just tapped out and went, “You know what? Close enough, honey. You’re 46.” And remember — this was before the stress of living in a pandemic was even a glimmer on the horizon, so I can’t blame the ’rona.
All this has made me wonder about time. I know it moves in one, inevitable direction — forward, constantly forward. But even then, there is an uncertainty to it, an elasticity you can’t predict.
Days here at work, especially since COVID-19 shuttered so much of our community, have been of two sorts. The “How can it still be 10 a.m.? We’ve been here for 200 hours,” one. And the “What do you mean it’s 4:30 p.m.? I haven’t gotten anything done.”
I’ve noticed friends my age are a bit older and have started to do that thing our parents did, where they lament about “the good ol‘ days” which honestly, weren’t so good.
They wonder about what the future will look like, what it will bring. “Guess we’ll have to wait and see,” they say.
The funny thing is, we won’t. The future becomes our present and we can only identify it by remembering the past.
Unless you’re me, of course, and just decide to skip ahead. Here’s to 47!
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.