Something happened when I turned 35.
I thought I was prepared. People gave me tons of (unsolicited) advice. Turning 35 means gaining five pounds, going gray, and random hair sprouting from places hair should not sprout. None of that happened. I didn’t gain weight (neither did I lose weight, alas), my hair is still dark, and my chin is still smooth.
In fact, nothing happened. Absolutely nothing.
I was in a holding pattern. Recently divorced, but no longer struggling with it. My kids were now kids, not babies. My job was fine. My life was fine. The next major life change–my kids leaving for college–was over a decade away. Right now was just the daily machinations of life, all the joys and frustrations and school plays and dance recitals. And that is a lot. If that’s all I get, I will still be supremely grateful.
But I still wanted more. I still want more.
I wasn’t prepared for the nothingness of 35.
When I was 17, I carried around a blue notebook full of my asinine thoughts and self-important ramblings (such as “I am so drunk right now.” In all fairness, I probably was.). There is a drawing, courtesy of a friend who later became a Lutheran minister, of a strange old man saying, “Will you put your finger in my belly button?”
There is also a list of all the things I would do with my life, all the mountains I would climb. Mountains being figurative, of course, but oddly enough mostly literal. I came up with the list after a four-day backpacking trip through Virginia, which included Mt. Rogers. Everest isn’t on there, but Mount Rainier and Mt. Katahdin made the list. Reasonable mountains, the kind I could actually do, if I only decided to do it.
When I turned 35, I hadn’t climbed a mountain since I was 17. This is partly because I moved to New Orleans, where mountains are hard to come by, but also because…life, man. Fucking life. I let it happen instead of making it happen. And I realized tomorrow wasn’t going to be any different, unless I changed that. You could call it a mid-life crisis. I prefer to think of it as that moment I realized I’m not dead yet.
I made things happen. I went to Alaska for a week to visit a friend. I put a hundred miles on my hiking boots. One day while I was hiking at Great Falls, I saw rock climbers scaling the granite and I thought, sure, why not. So now I do that, too.
And when I turned 36, I did it on top of a mountain.