In case anyone thinks I'm wallowing in my 35-ness today, here's a sneak peek at my column for Sunday:

I turned 35 this past week, and after much contemplation I’ve decided I’m fine with it. In fact, I’m better than fine with it; I’m downright happy.

Consider these laugh lines proof.

To sum up just how great 35 is, I’ll tell you what I asked for for my birthday: $78 designer-label sweatpants. That, in a nutshell, is the comical genius of 35. You finally reach a point in your life where you’re able to afford trivial luxuries, and you willingly and joyfully spend that extra money on elastic waistbands.

It’s a wonderful stage of life.

I’m not saying that at 35 you stop caring what you look like. (Remember, the aforementioned sweatpants are designer chic.) What I’m saying is that at 35 you finally begin to live by two important mantras: The first is to be true to oneself. The second is that form should follow function.

If you’re not yet 35, chances are you’ve known both of these for many years, but you’ve at least occasionally ignored them. You’ve worn 3-inch heels instead of the flats you love, and ordered fancy drinks when you’re out with the boss instead of the Bud Light you’re craving.

But as you age, you slowly begin to trust your inner voice — that sensible, spiritual sage inside you. Turns out she’s pretty smart, not to mention kind and generous.
I think the motivation to trust that inner voice kicks in around 35 because by then most people have had something monumental happen to them — the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, the threat of a health scare — that sharpens one’s focus on what’s important.

So you set about streamlining your life. You keep the friends who make you happy and ditch the ones who make you crazy. You start to think before you speak and act on your heart, and both of these cut way down on regrets.

Those of you who are under 35, don’t fret: None of this will occur overnight. And you don’t have to quit your gossipy text messages and late-night parties. Even we 30-somethings still enjoy both from time to time.

The transformation will happen gradually. First, you’ll experience great success — or great failure — and discover the kind of person you are by how you react. Then, through trial and error you’ll figure out what makes you happiest and, if you’re smart, reach for it with abandon. Along the way you’ll realize that many things (hangups, pride, insecurities) in your life are getting in the way of that passionate focus. So you’ll start to give them up, one by one.

How will you know when you’re getting close? There will be warning signs, though some of them might seem scary to you now. First, I began to know more about my siblings’ lives and less about celebrities’. I found myself watching more HGTV and less MTV. (I reasoned that “The Real World” peaked several seasons ago, anyway.) I started to decide what I thought was cool rather than having those decisions handed to me.

There are lots of other signs that you’re on your way to 35. You might notice that your iPod (BlackBerry, cell phone, laptop, fill in the blank with the gadget of your choice) is way outdated, but it still serves its purpose so you won’t bother to upgrade it. You might start to listen to radio stations that don’t play any current pop songs. Given the state of today’s pop music, you might already be doing this.

You’ll be coaxed into doing some community service, and you’ll like how that feels. If you’ve moved far from home you’ll begin to sense the price you paid for that decision.
There will come a day when you can’t remember the last time you got on the bathroom scale, but it won’t matter because you will have internalized how beautiful you feel when your son (daughter, spouse, parent) smiles at you. That is the same day you’ll stop wearing lipstick to the grocery store.

Don’t get me wrong, this kind of life is definitely a work in progress. I still care too much what people think of me, and not quite enough what I think of myself. But I now have an old iPod that’s as big as a brick, I drive the kind of car friends routinely laugh at, I sometimes leave the house with my son’s spit-up on my shirt, and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.

So take heart, youngsters: If you strive for it, that delightful moment will come when your inner voice has become so strong, so well-equipped at blocking out the trivial and savoring simple pleasures, that you can finally, at long last, relax in your own
(35-year-old) skin.

And in your fantastic new sweatpants.


Amy said...

Happy Birthday, Robyn!!!!
I love what you wrote! As usual, you summed it up perfectly and I totally agree. (except I think I will always wear 3" heels and drink fancy drinks. hee!)

Kim said...

I'm dying to know more about these sweatpants. What label?!

Robyn said...

They're Lucky brand. Brick red, with embroidery down the lower part of one leg. Super long, low rise, uber-comfy.

Hedgehog said...

Form follows function? Never. Blaspheme. Have I not taught you anything?

Tara said...

Another beautiful piece from you!

I do have to disagree, though, that this takes 35 years to achieve. I'm only 28, but I think I've had it for a year or two. :)

Robyn said...

What can I say - I was a late bloomer.

Sheila said...

I think if you got those sweatpants at 28, 29 even, they wouldn't have been nearly as fantastic as they are today....happy birthday :)

Carol said...

Happy Birthday, Robyn!
Every word of that is perfect. I may be a few years behind, but I'm getting there as fast as I can. :)

Heather said...

Happy birthday, Robyn!

julia said...

i'm with tara. think i'm already there. :)

hope you had an awesome birthday! the article is great

Allison Bonner said...

yeah, i think i've been 35 ever since i was 20. but, then again i am married to a man who was hatched at the age of 50, not born, and is already 98.

go figure.