Today I am 31. Last year was the big 3-0 and I threw a nice party for my friends. 30 did not feel old, definitely not any different than 29. Today is different. Maybe because their won't be a big party because all my friends are far away. Maybe because here, without a celebration to plan and groceries to buy, I have more time to think and reflect. 31 feels different, but not in an unpleasant way.
I look in the mirror. I don't wear make up. I never wore a lot but I have totally given up on it here in the humid Malawian heat. It would just clog my pores and usually I sweat so much that it would all be gone by 9 am anyway. My hair is tied back in a top knot. A few perky strands do their own little dance around my ears and forehead. I would love to be the kind of girl who treats her tresses with love and attention. In my imagination my brown soft hair comes down in supple waves, shiny and healthy. But well, that's only imagination.
I smile at my reflection. I look content, I know I am. I try to see myself as others see me. I still get surprised looks when I say that I am a mom. People tell me I look like I come just out of school, too young to be a mom. I don't see that. My smile makes the creases around my eyes and mouth deeper. When I stop smiling, the lines are still there. Not deep, but still visible. That's new. I put some cream on but it doesn't help, the lines stay and I know they will never go away. A decade of African sun has not been kind to my skin.
We had some guests at the lodge. They were born in 1998 and I thought that they were really young and brave to be traveling through africa. I remember when it was 1998 and when you are born in that year you cannot possibly be old enough to be traveling without parental supervision. It turned out that they were 19 and 20 and perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. It made me feel old. But after observing them I realised that I did not feel old in an unhappy, yearning way. I don't want to be 20 anymore. I like who I am now. I like what the lessons of the past decade have thaught me. I feel more at peace, have less fomo, more satisfaction. The starting wrinkles are here to stay, and so are the stretchmarks that two pregnancies caused. But despite that I feel more confident about my body than ever before. Maybe because I feel more confident about myself. I know who I am and I have learned to embrace that person. I know more about my talents, but I have also been confronted with my shortcomings and learned that I will stumble through life if I try to do it on my own. The biggest lesson I have learned is about God and His grace. Living in that grace means that I can extend it to others but also to myself. I don't have to be so hard on myself, I don't have to try to please others for acceptance and I do not have to proof anything because I am loved by the creator of the universe.
No, I also don't want to be 40. Not yet. Because 40 is properly old (just kidding.). But I am not scared of getting older. I like where I was, am grateful where I am now but I am also really hopeful for the future. I thought that growing older was about letting go and accepting. Letting go of that youthful skin and accepting that you will never look the way you did when you were 20. Letting go of energy and accepting that a late night takes longer to recover from. But instead, I am learning that getting older is about growth and finding peace. Knowing who you are, being content in that and doing what you are supposed to be doing gives a peace and joy that I did not possess 10 years ago. So bring on the next year with more love, more grace, more adventures and more wrinkles caused by joyous laughter!