I was born on a sunny, warm Sunday in August of 1970. If you are doing the math, I am closing in on my 48th birthday in just a few short days. I will be 48. But I don’t feel like it. And then again, I do. My mom was at the zoo when I decided to make my appearance to the world.
I think for some of us, we stop mentally aging at some point. Your mental age is the age you most see yourself and identify yourself. I think of this as the place where time has stopped for you. (If you don’t know what I am talking about, you aren’t there yet. And it’s usually past the age of 22.) For me, it’s somewhere around 32.

At 32, I had the baby I had always wanted. I still had my parents who were not sick yet – or not to my knowledge. And I had a full head of blonde hair  (no grey in sight) and a lovely, milky-smooth, wrinkle-free complexion. Nothing really hurt yet either – like my hips or my knee or this nagging, weird neck issue I have from trying to waterski once. And at 32, I didn’t have any life-altering medications I was taking just yet. I felt the freedom of what it was like to have money in the bank. But most importantly, I recognized what it was like to be needed, wanted, and loved.

I lost myself somewhere in a blur of my 30s. I call them “the lost years.” I was there in a funnel cloud of dying parents, single motherhood, broken relationships, self-employment, and a career change. The tornado of reality ripped through my life, leaving a path of destruction in it’s wake. It was as spectacular as it was heartbreaking.

In those years, I felt like a grown-up…a real-life grown-up. A sitting in lawyers offices talking about escrows and estate values adult. A mortgage paying, tax owing grown-up.  Burying my parents aged me beyond my years. All I could see with each disaster and crisis was the innocence of my early life slipping away. My carefree days were gone and trying to hold on was as futile as trying to catch smoke or hold on to fistfuls of water.

Eventually, I leaned into age and adulthood. It was a reality that wasn’t going away. Each crisis sidelined me in a way I cant explain. So I stopped resisting. I accepted what was. I stared it in the face, prepared for a showdown. And then, like magic, it fell apart…right at my feet in a puddle of seriousness, begging for me to splash around in it and make light of it all like a 4 year old in rainboots.

It was only then that I stopped worrying, angsting and trying to control the outcome. I stopped trying to define age in measured successes. I stopped seeing life in “rights of passage,” like people dying and mortgages owed and businesses started. I simply just started living again whenever and wherever I could…like a child, full of heart and free of worry.

So now, when life starts creeping up behind me, putting me in the choke hold that is adulthood, I shake it off and rebel like a teenager under too many restrictions. I beat away the stress with inner joy. I jump some waves or challenge my son to a pool race.  I go to the park and hop on the swings. I lay on the grass or the sandy beach and watch the clouds go floating by, one by one, wondering what in the world they look like. I live with the childlike curiosity that fills my heart with innocence. I become young again.

If there is one thing I have learned, it is that life will always be there, waiting as impatiently as a high school principal discerningly looking over his glasses at you, reminding you of what has to be done and the zillion places you could have done better. But it’s my inner child that stands by me at those times, reminding me that, like most things, life will always be waiting for you. So for now, let’s just enjoy the moment.

Libby Williams is a photographer, designer, and food blogger living in Charleston. She is inspired daily by a lot of things around her: her growing...

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