A few weeks ago, I looked in the mirror and realized that I was old.
It’s not that I haven’t noticed my aging before, but there was a sobering moment when I looked in the mirror that day when I realized I wasn’t just aging, but that I looked old. The gray in my beard, the bags under my eyes, the receding hairline, the worn and tired look on my face: I looked, for the first time in my life, as old as my years, if not older.
I didn’t expect thirty-nine to look like this—caring for a daughter we just welcomed into the world a few months ago, maintaining a house we own and all that comes with it, being comfortable in a career that is fulfilling but doesn’t have much opportunity for growth—but life is never what we expect. Until recently, I still felt young, still felt like I had a lot of years left to get set, to create and shape a life. Now, I realize that the life I’m in right now is the life I’ve shaped, that the life I currently live in is the one that I’ve created through my young years into middle age.
And I’m happy with that life.
I am lucky to live with a woman I adore and be raising a child I love. I am lucky to be (relatively) healthy and stable enough to afford to live the life we do. I am lucky to be turning older with grace and love, and feeling good that I can leave my youth behind and embrace being the adult that I have become.
My face looks more weathered and worn than it did before, but that’s okay. It’s a sign that I’ve lived—that my life has been full of moments that have impacted me and made me feel and grow. The face I see when I look in the mirror is the face of the person I have grown into, the person I was working to become all through my younger years.
Today, as I turn thirty-nine years old, I’ll look into the mirror and look at my face. It is a face that I am proud to wear, no matter how many bags I have under my eyes or how gray my beard may get. This is who I am, and I couldn’t be happier with where I’ve ended up.