I love going to my dentist; it’s as close to a mini spa as I get to these days. It’s a retreat from life and a trip to a parallel universe. With a blanket, neck warmer, and IPod I get myself ready for the laughing gas.
If it weren’t for the laughing gas I would probably have lost all my teeth. I wouldn’t go to the dentist as just the thought of the hygienist makes me squirm in my chair. The gas relaxes me enough to allow the dentist to do his job, and so for thirty minutes I travel to la-la-land usually to the tune of Van Morrison.
And I was on my way to the parallel universe when the volume on the IPod would not go high enough presenting a problem. If I heard any sound while the dentist was replacing my filling there was a chance I would run out the door. But every time I would rotate the volume button I would accidently hit the back button and the song would start over.
I didn’t want to hear the first thirty seconds of the song again, (and again and again) I just wanted to hear it LOUDER and my drama was ruining my mini spa moment. In that struggle I must have sighed (or grunted) and the assistant came over. She took my headphone off and I told her my volume control issue. She explained how to fix it.
“I know how to do it,” I said in disdain, “it’s just not working.” And showed her hitting the back button one more time. This caused Van to start over for the tenth time: “it’s a marevelous night for a moon dance.” The assistant took the IPod, did exactly what she told me to do, and set the volume to the highest level. That would shut me up.
I looked at her as closely as I could from my foggy eyes, and saw a very young girl probably in her early twenties. I thought “she must think of me as that older person who doesn’t ‘get’ technology.”
If I had the wherewithal, I would have told her that I am decently tech savvy, that I worked in technology for several years, and that I was not one of those people. You know, the older ones who can’t figure out a new gadget where the directions sound like jibberish. The ones who hit the same button over and over again hoping it will work this time. The ones who get so exasperated that they feel like throwing said new shiny gadget out the window. I was NOT an older person trying to understand a new gadget that young people find so intuitive.
Okay wait. So maybe I was just a little bit.
Not that an IPod is a new technology, but I can see how she could think I was like that: old.
And that is a relief.
In my daze I thought about a conversation I had recently with a triathlete friend. I am not kidding when I say this woman is one of the nicest, fittest, fastest, most enthusiastic and caring people I know. I had no idea she was only 29 years old.
She told how she was turning thirty soon and was “freaking out.” She wondered if her current boyfriend was “the one” or if she will have to start the dating process all over again before settling down, how her biological clock has begun to tick, how she knew she wanted a family and children, how she wasn’t sure her job was the right one for her, and so on.
I knew exactly where she was at, and from the viewpoint of a friend, I wanted to tell her how turning thirty was not so bad. But I couldn’t.
Truth is turning thirty sucked. I wasn’t an enthusiastic, healthy, sane triathlete. I was in a dead end relationship that I did not want to end, living in a place that wasn’t good for me, heading in the wrong direction. I turned thirty in turmoil. I was old enough to have material goods but not mature enough to care for them. I remembered it was time to pay the phone bill when they would finally disconnect the line.
Turning thirty was a milestone that helped me sober up, quite literally. It is when the crap hit the fan and when I realized that something had to change. I was clueless, aimless and lost but finally ready to admit I wanted to change.
So instead of comforting my friend, I told her that turning thirty was scary but necessary. Questioning where you are headed is a great thing to do, and if you see things that aren’t quite how you want them this was the right time to be brave, make hard choices, ask for help if needed or walk away if necessary.
Because much to my surprise turning forty was wonderful. The previous decade defined who I was in broad terms: a wife and mother. But in my personal experience, once I was secure in those roles, then a whole world of possibilities opened up. It’s as if the base for the second part of my life was built. I was no longer a new wife, or a new mom. I was empowered to make mistakes as my foundation was firm.
Sitting at the dentist chair I realized I lived through experiences that taught me friends, jobs, and even worries come and go. Yet even in the midst of the laughing gas cloud, I know who I am today and I know where I stand. The night I turned thirty, standing at all was an issue.
Of course I worry about the future, but it doesn’t keep me up at night. I know enough to know things will work themselves out.
So with the effect of the laughing gas in history but Van Morrison still singing in my ear I looked at the assistant again. I said “thank you for helping me with the volume.”
Because one of the benefits of being older, is that you no longer care what younger people think about you. Even if they are wrong.