The Difference Between Getting Older & Growing Older

I have always been a birthday loving person. Some people aren't, and that's OK.

I am not here to tell you that you're a bad person for not counting down the days until you get to celebrate you. Everyone has their reasons why they love or hate or are simply indifferent to their "special" day.

I'm pretty sure my mother's idea of hell is a place where The Birthday Song is on repeat. Now that I think about it, that may be my version as well. It's kinda creepy.

Besides, that day is your own and if you want to spend it in your sweats with a bag of Doritos and boxed wine—more power to you! I just ask that I get to come over and join you, please and thank you.

But, as for me? I LOVE them. Maybe not the song, but definitely everything else.  I don't love them because of the attention and presents that usually come with them. Although, I am not going to turn down any ribbon-clad boxes, let's be honest.

I love them because they are fun to love and it's an excuse to be surrounded by the people I love to spend time with most. 

I was always that kid that didn't want help blowing out their candles because I believed (Okay, maybe I still do!) that they possessed magical powers. I believed these powers could only be unlocked by the ones that closed their eyes tightly, wished with their hearts wide open, and never told a soul what it was that they tried to exhale into existence.

Yep. I might take birthday candles a little too seriously. Let's be real: I still get pissed at kids for blowing out other kid's candles. I don't care if he's two and excited, it's not their wish or cake to spit on, damn it.

So, back to me not being the Grinch of children's birthday parties: I turn 29 in two days and I am kind of freaking out.

At first, I didn't know what the hell was going on with me. I have spent the majority of the last few days in bed, twisted in my covers, and hiding beneath my pillows from that big, bad thing we call life. While under my late afternoon covers, I thought to myself:

Oh, SHIT. Not this again. No. I am not depressed. I know I am not depressed. I have a system for that now. I am blessed and grateful and SO beyond that bullshit that stole so many precious days of my life. Whatever this is, it is NOT that.

And I was right. It wasn't.

So, what was it then? What was keeping me awake but also keeping me in the place I am supposed to be on only for sleep??

It was the list. THE list.

You know, the things-I-am-going-to-accomplish-before-I-am-thirty list.

Yeah. That asshole list.

My first draft was written at 18. I rewrote it at 21. I revised it at 25. Now, the final is due in ONE year and two-ish days and it is nowhere near complete. And, from what I've heard, God does not give any extensions on these assignments. 

In one year, I can no longer blame my unfinished list on my twenties. Well, DAMN.

We are told that our twenties are a time where we are supposed to make too many mistakes and discover the kind of person we want to be and drink too much and experiment with our bodies and get our hearts broken and gain a few friends and lose a few more friends and fail and fail and fail until we find the courage to finally try again.

We are told that this is the time to do those things. That this is the only time we should be embracing that sort of behavior. 

So, what happens if we are still doing all or some of these things once that 29th year sees its last day? Have we failed in some great way of the world? Do we get held back a year in the school of life? 

I sure hope not. I'd like to graduate this thing with honors!

I could sit here and write down everything that is on my list. I could tell you how much I have not accomplished and all of the materialistic and responsible things that are missing checks in their boxes. But I'm not going to. I'm pretty sure you can figure it out. In fact, we probably share a few of the same empty boxes. 

I already rattled off that long and depressing list recently to a woman that I love and respect and admire. She is also close to being able to say that she has survived 70 years on this great Earth.

When she heard my list of shortcomings and diminishing aspirations, do you know what she did?

She laughed. She laughed. Here I am on the verge of a mental breakdown and she is laughing.

Then she said this:

Oh. Honey! Don't you know that list never goes away? I am almost 70 years old and, guess what? I have the same list! But mine does not scare me. It is a good list to have. It means you are still growing. And I can't imagine I ever want to stop doing that.

And there it was: the difference between getting older and growing older.

You are getting older when you are measuring how much sand is at the bottom of your hourglass. You are growing older when you choose to cup your hands gratefully as more life falls through. 

I got served by a grandma—and it was a steaming plate of much-needed wisdom.

Maybe I will still do a lot of the things that I have in my 20s in my 30s. Maybe it won't stop in my 40s or 50s or 60s. Maybe we never complete our life's great to-do list.

Will that make me an irresponsible adult? I like to think not. When I take a look at the people that I admire most in my life—when I look really closely—their lists are not much different than my own.

They may have a few more checks in boxes, a few more names and cities scribbled out or rewritten, and be a bit more worn from the process of wisdom, but they still have something in common with my own.

What we have in common is that our lists continue to grow. No matter how much we get done or put to the side or completely cross out of our lives, the list never stops getting longer. 

I may only be blowing out my birthday candles for the 29th time, but it will be the first time I will not see it as the flame going out for another precious year passed. Instead, I plan to let it light the fire awaiting inside of me. A fire that was dwindling with the thought getting older, but is sure to run wild with the thought of growth and change.

In a way, I feel like I have already received my great birthday wish. I get another year to fail and learn and grow. Most importantly, I get 365 more chances to show others, and myself, what kind of love I have to offer. That is a gift in itself.

Who knows? With a gift like that, I might let a kid blow out my birthday candles. That just may be the key that unlocks the real magic I always believed they held. 

Charlotte Crow

I'm a modern day farmer's daughter who shares and seeks inspiration from the comical & beautiful things that get caught in life's curious little web.