In three days I’ll be thirty-eight. Two years closer to forty. Two years closer to the age I once thought older than old, the age I once laughed at my parents for being decrepit enough to reach. Some people have a lot of angst about the big “O’s”. I suppose I had a little of it in the two years before I turned thirty. At that time the Architect and I had just moved to our new home, he had a shiny new job and I had an exciting lack of one. In exchange for taking care of the household’s daily operation (something I happen to do very efficiently), I was free to spend my days writing. Instead of a grim reminder of fleeting youth and eventual mortality, thirty became a gateway to a whole new chapter of my life, one where I was happier, healthier, and wiser.
Eight years have passed and I’m now looking down the barrel of that ridiculous, once improbable-sounding number. 4-0. A voice somewhere inside whispers it is the beginning of the end; forty will bring with it that inevitable decline, the knowledge that one’s prime is long past, the certainty of being bested by those younger and brighter. And then another voice surfaces. It is a fierce, guttural growling of a voice. It is the voice of Mortem.
Mortem doesn’t care about numbers, except the ones that show how many laps she can do in five minutes; how many of her points she withheld from the opposing jammer; and the three numbers on the back of her jersey. Mortem plays roller derby. When she falls, she bounces back up like she’s twenty. And although sometimes she makes me take ibuprofen like I’m eighty, she gives me the drive to come back every practice to do it again, intent on not just keeping up, but on excelling. Mortem doesn’t care that I haven’t participated in sports ever, or that most people might think it’s a little late to start playing a full contact sport on wheels. Mortem only wants me to shut up and play. I can’t say I disagree with that.
Mortem tells me thirty-eight will be a blast. I believe her. My body may get beat up easier and take longer to recover than my twenty-year-old teammates, but bodies are just bodies. Something deeper, more important has changed within me, something that age cannot touch. There’s a saying in derby. It can be seen on bumper stickers and tee shirts. It rings deeply true in me, not cheapened by its constant broadcasting. It is a saying that tells me I’ll be okay no matter if I’m thirty-eight, forty, or fifty.
Roller Derby Saved my Soul.
So, bathed in the baptismal font of derby, I arise anew to greet May thirtieth with a huge, stupid grin plastered on my face.
I’m going to have a good time getting old.