Thank you, Mary Rowen, for joining the Age is Just a Number blog series. Mary is the author of Living by Ear and today she shares her thoughts on turning 50. Her comments regarding the randomness of life really does drive home the point that age isn’t everything.
On Turning Fifty
When I think of fifty, the first thing that comes to mind is Molly Shannon as Sally O’Malley on SNL, kicking and stretching. When I first saw that skit, I laughed hysterically. It seemed reasonable at the time—I was in my thirties—to assume that women start to lose it a bit when they hit the big 5-0.
But now that I’m here, I don’t spend much time telling people about my age, or kicking and stretching either, for that matter. And honestly, I like myself a lot more at fifty than I did thirty years ago.
If that sounds crazy, let me explain. Aside from the wonderful teaching job I had in my twenties, my life was a mess. I was in a dysfunctional relationship, and was extremely sick with bulimia. And although I considered myself a writer, I never did more than scribble poems in a notebook.
In my thirties, things improved considerably. By the time I was thirty-four, I was bulimia-free, married to a good man, and pregnant. My second child was born when I was thirty-seven, so turning forty didn’t phase me a bit. How can you feel old with two preschoolers ruling your life?
And now? Well I still don’t feel old. I’m extremely happy writing novels and working with a great publisher. My kids are in their teens, and although both of them can make me crazy at times, I really enjoy spending time with them. Then there’s our dog, who may actually be part coyote. If he doesn’t get two good workouts a day, he starts destroying the house, so I jog with him every morning. Yes, I grumble—especially when it’s wet or cold outside—but he helps keep me in shape.
On the other hand, living for five decades has given me enough views into mortality to assure me that it’s real, and often fickle. It all started in kindergarten when my teacher—a nun—showed up at school one Monday morning in tears, because the convent where she lived had burned down over the weekend. The poor woman—who must’ve been in shock—told an entire class of five-year-olds about young nuns running through the streets, dying, in burning clothes. It took months for me to recover from that story, but it also taught me that you don’t need to be old and sick to die.
Not too long after that, my mother told me about her brother Joe—a young man just home from WWll—who was killed in a car crash when my mom was only ten. Then, when I was in eighth grade, a classmate lost a brother to drowning. When I was in college, my very first boyfriend—we’d “gone out” for a couple of weeks as high school freshmen—died in a rock-climbing accident. And shortly before I got married, a close friend went out for a jog and dropped dead.
So by the time my father—who was healthy and active—died of a brain aneurysm in 2001, I was already convinced that death sometimes just swoops in takes people down. And if I had any doubts about that, they were dispelled a few years later, when my mom’s cousin—a vibrant, working woman—fell down a flight of stairs, became paralyzed from the neck down, and died shortly thereafter.
So what’s my point? Certainly I’m not attempting to write my own version of Jim Carroll’s song, “People Who Died.” Nor am I a morbid person. But after living for fifty years, I realize that age is only part of the story. Fate—or God, or the Universe—also plays a huge roll, so I try to focus on making the most of each day, rather than thinking about how many pages I’ve torn off the calendar.
Maybe when I hit sixty, I’ll start kicking and stretching. But for now, you can find me driving my kids around, running with the dog, and writing.
From Kirkus Reviews
“Debut novelist Rowen reinvigorates familiar elements… short chapters rife with references to the music scene and pop culture…. A quick-tempo novel that will strike a chord with women’s-fiction fans….fresh, poignant and funny.”–Kirkus Reviews
Mary Rowen loves music and is a Boston area mom to teenagers. All of her novels focus on women of various ages growing up, or at least becoming comfortable with themselves. Her essays have been anthologized and/or published on multiple blogs. Mary grew up in the Massachusetts Merrimack Valley, is a graduate of Providence College, and has worked as a teacher, writer, salesperson, and political canvasser. She firmly believes that all of those jobs provide good preparation for an aspiring writer.
Please visit her blog at: http://www.maryrowen.com
How Do You Know? – December 2nd.
What if you were approaching the end of your thirties and all of the life milestones you took for granted in your youth suddenly seemed out of reach?
On the eve of her thirty-ninth birthday, Maggie Piper doesn’t look, act, or feel much different than she did at twenty-nine, but with her fortieth birthday speeding towards her like a freight train, she wonders if she should. The fear of a slowing metabolism, wrinkling of her skin, and the ticking of her biological clock leaves Maggie torn between a desire to settle down like most of her similarly-aged peers and concern that all is not perfect in her existing relationship. When a spontaneous request for a temporary “break” from her live-in boyfriend results in a “break-up,” Maggie finds herself single once again and only twelve months from the big 4.0. In the profound yet bumpy year that follows, Maggie will learn, sometimes painfully, that life doesn’t always happen on a schedule, there are no deadlines in love, and age really is just a number.