This week I turned 35. I was at work on my birthday, and am so grateful and lucky to have wonderful co-workers that took the time and put in the effort to make me feel acknowledged despite being a routinely chaotic day in the Emergency Department.
One thing that stood out was the constant remarks. “Another year celebrating your 29th?” “How old are you today, wait–not a day over 21!” While I appreciate the playful banter and salute to my more youthful days, I have to say, it is more than okay to just say, “Happy 35th!”
Ask anyone in medicine, we acknowledge that no two people age similarly. We may stare slightly in awe of that 76 year old woman that presents in excellent health, telling us she is on no medications, only a few vitamins, and walks 2 miles a day. We may double check the date of birth of that 43 year old woman that presents looking so weak and frail.
I understand that age is a sensitive subject, and some people would greatly disagree that it is okay to shout their age out. I also understand that in the grand scheme of things, 35 is still very young to many (mostly everyone over 35.) Maybe my opinion will change at 45 or 55 or 65, who knows. All I can speak for is right now.
Right now, I am 35. I am 35 because I graduated from high school, then worked hard in college, then got into medical school and worked even harder in medical school to get into residency, then worked endless hours in residency and sought out the best training I could possibly get to equip myself for practice after residency. I have been practicing medicine post-training, and these years of experience are the most invaluable to my practice as I constantly work to make myself a better clinician.
I am 35 because I met my husband in college, we navigated graduating in different years, applying to graduate school in two different fields, and thankfully landing jobs in the same location. We stood together through the uncertainties of being an interracial couple being raised in completely different cultures. We navigated the complications and heartache of trying to build a family. We are now raising three children that have become the center of our world. We fumble through the trials and errors of defining parenthood and trying to be the best parents we can be. With every year, I am challenged with actively taking care of my own physical and mental health as age becomes less invincible, setting new goals for my own general health and well-being. I am 35 and am confronted with the realization that our parents are aging and are going to need us more with each year.
These are the things that make me 35. Not over 21. Not “29 another year.” Yes. All of being 35 comes with being a little bit older. Having a few more wrinkles. Looking a little less youthful. Having to work a little harder to shed those pounds that linger a little more desperately. More frequently being called “ma’am” and rarely “miss.” But there is so much more to age than a number.
There are our accomplishments. Our experiences. Our growth by real life trial and error. Our confidence in who we are. Maybe one day I will cringe at my age, but today, I am proud of all that has come with being 35. I can not even imagine what all will come in the next 35 plus years.
So go ahead. Tell whoever you would like. I give you all the permission in the world. I am 35. Not a year younger. Not a year older. Just 35.
Happy 35h to me.