Monday, May 24, 2004


I am 29-years-old.
I am 29-years-old.
I am 29-years-old.

No matter how many times I say it, I cannot get used to the idea. It's just a number, people say, it means nothing if you are young at heart. But right now, my heart, which indeed feels young, also feels perplexed.
How did this happen to me, I wonder? How did all these years slip away like, a famous singer once said, a thief in the night? Heck, I'm still intimidated by adults. I find myself feeling insecure amongst other late twenty-something. That shouldn't happen to a 29-year-old--I am one of them, if not, in some cases, their elder.

Now when someone asks me how old I am, I respond meekishly as if I was my age was a mistake or as if I had just been pulled over and a policeman asked me if I knew how fast I was going. The number always comes with an explanation of sorts.

This newest birthday (which was yesterday) frightens me. I am suddenly aware of all the degrees not hanging on my wall. I take notice of the family I do not yet have. I look out the window and do not see the station wagon I, as a twelve-year-old, dreamt of owning.

Every time I read an article in a magazine or a newspaper, I take notice of the subject's age. If they are too young to be a celebrity or a successful writer or a musician, etc, I cannot help but feel a tinge of jealousy. If they are older then me, I feel slightly justified. Perhaps I, too, am a late bloomer.

I now think of taking more chances; moving away, meeting interesting people, making a movie. Or I wonder whether it is time to start incorporating the P word into my vocabulary ("practical" was always the scariest of words). Should I accept the corporate job? Should I begin accumulating a more mature wardrobe?

It's unfortunate that all these thoughts roam around in my head after I have just found out that close relative of mine has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I cannot imagine the frustration of living a full life only to begin forgetting it. Sometimes the only thing we have to comfort ourselves are the memories. I know that on this post-birthday, I reminisce about the years past and the hopes I cherished for the future. I am trying to maintain that hope, I am trying to conjure the unadulterated anticipation. And I can do that somewhat, only because I have a point of reference in the past. This said relative reportedly only has a minor case which will inevitably take a turn for the worse. Such is the nature of this degrading disease. While it won't take your health, it will take your name, identity, history, thoughts, dreams...

As I look into the mirror, I see a "man (try saying that without snickering)" of 29 years. While I know where I've been, or more appropriately, where I haven't been, I have no idea where I'm going. I don't have a stable life, a consistent job in an office...I don't have a family yet or a station wagon. Every morning that I wake, I look for the meaning that most people my age are searching for. The Big Picture. Our destiny. What we were put here for. Looking towards that sort of uncertainly is stressful and exciting, scary and exhilarating. I am feeling around in the dark, looking for the proverbial light switch and it's promising illumination.

My relative, on the other hand, probably yearns for that sort of uncertainty. I know my name. She does not. I remember my golden-filled summers but she doesn't. I look through the photo albums and recall the scents that enveloped me at those respective times. She cannot do the same, even if the picture proves that she had been there with me.

With every year that I encounter, I am progressively conscious of our time, our precious time. What shall I do with it? Better yet, do I have a choice? After all, my suffering relative has none. All she wants is to remember what was and I feel selfish wondering what could be. It will happen, I tell myself, and hopefully it will be for the best. She, in her infinite wisdom acquired with age, would say, I should be patient and hopeful. Time has many wonderful gifts for us, I imagine her prophesising. But now things are different. She can't comfort me with the reassurance she gained by raising a wonderful family, by being a valiant wife, by going through the hardship of an awful war.

She is just trying to remember her name.


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