Maybe

I turned 41 and had my annual mammogram this past Wednesday. The last time I was in that little room, I had two long needles sticking out of my bewb that they were trying to image to make sure they could get the whole tumor out.

It’s been sort of a weird year.

I keep telling people this is the year I feel old, but that’s not exactly accurate. I don’t feel OLD like elderly or falling apart or unable to do stuff. I just feel…like a veteran. Like an adult, maybe? Is this what it feels like to be an adult?

Maybe it was going through the whole cancer thing. My body isn’t more achy or sore, but when I look in the mirror, I see change. Yes, my hair is short (which thank you for the compliments, but I am ready for it to be long again), but I have more lines on my face. My eyes are more tired. My skin is drier. Something looks…aged.

Maybe it’s the whole 16 years of teaching thing. This year I am finding myself surrounded by a LOT of very young, new teachers as the people I started my career with start to retire around me. A few weeks ago, I found out who will be retiring this and other shifts that are possible in department chairs and such. I also have a student teacher this semester. On one of her first days, a student asked, “Hey Mrs. Sluiter! Is that your daughter?” And I laughed at the absurdity and then did the math. It was not all that absurd.

Maybe it’s the whole being back in grad school thing. I’m currently taking a class called Professionalization in English that is all about how to be a PhD student who is hoping to become a professor. There are seven of us in the class: three of us are in the English Ed PhD program, one is in the Literature PhD program, and the other three are in the Literature MA program. I am the oldest there by at least five years. And each week we have guest speakers–other professors in the department–come to talk about things like getting published, presenting at conferences, dissertation writing, etc. I am constantly reminded that 40 is not all that young to be back in school, even if it is grad school.

Or maybe it’s just a combination of this whole weird year. Maybe this is fleeting and will go away the farther I get from the entire ordeal. Maybe I just have to settle into this new me. The cancer survivor, doctoral student, veteran teacher me.

This year I’ve had to do many things that made me uncomfortable (to say the least). Maybe that is what feeling like an adult is. Doing the things that make you uncomfortable because you only get one life and if you don’t do the thing, you will regret it.

Which means maybe this is the year we will finally join a gym and get the Christmas decorations off the yard before April.

Maybe.

Here I am hoping 41 is less uncomfortable that 40 was.

By the way, that mammogram I had on my birthday came back completely normal. Absolutely no sign of cancer. I’d say that is a good start to this new trip around the sun.

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