• Melissa Volker

On Birthdays, Life, and the Age of Wisdom


Birthdays tend to be a time of reflection (or hiding, I suppose, depending on your disposition).

Every year I keep waiting for the "age of wisdom" -- you know, that time in life when suddenly it all make sense, you are certain of who you are and where you are going, and everything falls magically into place.

I am fifty-four years old today, and I've understood over the last few years what people mean when they say that the number of candles on their cake, and the reflection in the mirror, doesn't match how they feel.

I've been a starving-artist, a brooding-artist, activist; I've been single, married, a mother, a teacher, an extrovert, and introvert, and both simultaneously.

I still dance like no one's watching (well, when no one is watching), I am a super-hero nerd, a cosplay geek, I love all kinds of music (yes, even some rap), Converse are my favorite sneakers, and I will still buy some clothing from American Eagle Outfitters in spite of being twice the average age of the models.

I also have a cool, Frankenstein's bride grey streak working its way in on my temple, carefully apply my eye cream, neck serum and moisturizer morning and evening, and have learned to wear my shirts so that the mother-pooch is camouflaged but I don't look dumpy.

My style changes with my mood, my living room with the seasons, and just when I think I've got it down, the world changes, I have another birthday, and I feel different.

So, here's your bit of wisdom for you -- the 'age of wisdom' doesn't exist. (Which, I guess, means it does, so there's a paradox to knock around your brain a bit).

There is no magic moment when suddenly the light shines and it all makes sense. There's no fabulous instant when we totally understand ourselves and are forever confident in who we are forever after.

The wisdom that does come is that the magical moment of total self-understanding, world-understanding, the meaning-of-life-and-everything never really happens.

Because life is chaos. Life is change. Life is thinking we've made such great strides, progress toward tolerance and understanding and finding out there's a whole dark world out there that just needed an orange face with a loud blustering voice and a lie to bring it out.

The world changes, and so do we. Like sharks, we must keep moving forward, or we die.

My hair has been brown, red, platinum; it's been short, long, shaggy and blunt. My clothes have been hippy, punk, retro, classic, earthy, casual (sometimes all in the course of one month). I've been stork-skinny, pregnant heavy, and something in between.

I've been happy, despondent, joyful, awestruck, lost, and found.

It never changes. So, we must.

And that's okay. Realizing there's no ultimate moment of understanding, settling, arrival, is -- in itself -- an understanding.

The "a-ha" moment is that there is no "a-ha" moment.

So maybe, the age of wisdom arrives when you realize the paradox and embrace it.

A little wine and chocolate never hurt either.


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© 2016 Melissa Volker

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