14 going on 40

Oh good, you’re just in time to hear one of my embarrassing secrets about my past.

When I was in high school, I was sure that once I got my ears pierced, my life would be instantly, completely and permanently better (or, using the lingo of the day, “rad”). My mom’s rule for all four of us kids–boys and girls– was that we could pierce whatever we wanted after we turned 16. Before you think she was a complete prude, I’ll have you know that we could dye our hair any color we wanted starting at 13, but piercings had to wait.

So you can better appreciate my naiveté, here’s some background. I returned from a two-week trip to India with my church’s youth group in late summer of 1992 to learn I was starting my junior year at a big public school. I was 14. And #ohbytheway school started the next day! Talk about culture shock! Up until then, I’d always been either homeschooled or in small private Christian schools. Fourteen is young for 11th grade, yes? Because of my home/private schooling, I’d completed all the requirements for 10th grade without knowing it. I turned 15 a few weeks into my junior year, but I was still pretty young and lost in that big school.

Pretty young and lost .But great hair.

It didn’t take long, though, to determine who the popular, pretty girls were and where I fit in (or didn’t) with the different crowds. I studied those pretty girls and figured that if I could have earrings like they had (early 90s=big, glorious hoops), I’d be 90% on my way to getting a boyfriend. (The rule that I also couldn’t date until I was 16 was an obstacle, but I had a plan.) Once I had a boyfriend, I’d have the self-confidence to be popular and good at everything, and also successful for the rest of my life. The other 10% had to do with my hair and glasses, but with cool earrings, a popular girl would take notice of me, recognize my potential and give me a makeover. I had seen the movies.

I’m laughing at little Anna right now, but also want to give her a big hug and present some realistic expectations. Today, though, I’m not all that different than her/me.

I’m turning 40 this September. I’m one of those people who doesn’t mind getting older. Maybe it’s because I was the youngest in the class my whole life, but especially from 11th grade on, that I’ve valued aging. As those numbers go up, so has my appreciation for life and understanding of what I contribute to it.

The “earrings” of this stage in my life is my long-held belief that by 40 I will have It All figured out. I’ll know what I want to be when I grow up and be on a steady track toward it. I’ll be in the greatest shape of my life, still able to fit into my wedding dress and look great in tank tops. I’ll be a patient, joyful mom, and a sweet, selfless wife. Faith won’t be a struggle and I’ll be able to express it perfectly in words both written and sung (both of which will be publicly validated and in high demand).

(Are you laughing, too?)

So 40. Yeah, 40 is where it all comes together. Questions are answered and self is done being formed. I’ll know who I am and where I’m going.

Fifteen-year-old Anna is shaking her head at me with her newly pierced ears still throbbing. Even though Mom let me get my ears pierced a year early because of my skipped grade (and she loved me), I didn’t instantly get a boyfriend (shockingly), self-confidence or life success. I don’t think anything even changed! I was still little nerdy me.

Fifteen-year-old Anna is suggesting that my dreams of being 40 are probably not very realistic. My immediate retort is that maybe we can bump the “dream age” back to 45, since I got married and had kids so much later than initially planned. 18-year-old newly drivers-licensed me is probably going to knock that idea down, too, though.

Now you know my secret. I’m almost 40 and I don’t have my life together yet, and may not get there in the next few months. (I do still have awesome hair and black and white striped shirts, so there’s that.)

Did you have an age or stage you anticipated in your life that turned out differently than you planned? Or not? Has anything in life gone as you planned? Can you look back and see that you did get “there” eventually, just not the way you thought? Or you never got there and that’s ok? Is that too many questions? #okIllstop