Holy smokes! In a few months, I’ll be 35 years old, and I’m kind of freaking out. It isn’t the actual number that scares me, although people tend to stop saying things like, “Don’t worry, you’re still young,” when you say you’re 35. I actually sort of feel sorry for my parents, too, because when we’re out in public and run into one of their friends who asks me how old I am, and then based on my age, assume I am my older sister, my parents correct them, saying, “No, this is the baby.” If I’m their 35-year-old baby, how old does that make them?

So many things changed when I hit my 30s. When I was in college in my 20s, I could eat Funyuns and drink a Mountain Dew every day for breakfast and not gain a pound. I could eat Buffalo Wings and drink beer for dinner without feeling any remorse — and my pants would still fit the same, with little or no exercise. These days, it’s as if my metabolism has come to a screeching halt, and if I even get a whiff of junk food, the seams of my clothes start to flex. That’s why I buy stretchy jeans and loose-fitting tops. Gone are the days when I chose style over comfort. There is a saying: “A moment on the lips, but forever on the hips” — I’ve come to know that saying all too well.

And, since I’m on the subject of things going downhill as I get older, my skin is another issue. I’ve been fortunate all my life to have had pretty good complexion. People say it’s because of my 25 percent Korean blood. Well, I haven’t received any compliments in awhile. These days, I get more blemishes than I did when I was a 14-year-old going through puberty. And these buggers are nasty. They don’t just hang out on my face and camp for an extended period of time — they leave scars. I keep telling my friends that I’m going to look like an obake soon with all the bondo and thick makeup I’m going to have to wear to cover up all my imperfections. Whenever I share these “getting older gripes” with my mom, she always says, “You think things are bad in your 30s? Wait until your 40s and 50s. That’s when the real problems start.” Oh great . . .

I also notice that “young people” music irritates me. I remember my parents describing the music that I listened to growing up as “provocative” and “inappropriate.” Today’s music makes the ’80s and ‘90s hits seem like gospel music. I never really cared for rap music, but, especially now, with all of the sexually explicit lyrics and downright raunchy and derogatory videos that accompany the songs, much of rap music sounds like garbage to me. I can now totally relate to when my mom used to rock out in the car to music from her days (the ’60s and ’70s) and say, “They just don’t make ’em like they used to.” What’s crazier is when I hear elementary-age kids singing these inappropriate lyrics without any clue of what they are actually saying. Or, when I see parents encouraging their kids to sing along or dance to these horrendous songs. I am a lover of most technology — sometimes it seems like my iPhone is an extension of my palm since I’m on it so often — but does it make me a prude if I think it’s ridiculous when parents videotape their 5-year-olds twerking and shaking their okole like they’re in a nightclub and then share it on Facebook? Oh no, I’m starting to sound a lot like my mother . . .

I was in the store the other day when a group of 20-something guys came in to buy beer. All I could hear was them blurting out four-letter words and cussing all over the place. Before I say that I was offended, let me say that I’ve been accused of having the mouth of a trucker, especially when I get upset, so I’m not going to even pretend that I only use loving words. But come on, there were kids in the store! Families were shopping. Grandmas and grandpas were shopping. I don’t usually mind strangers’ business, but if looks could kill, these boys would have been hauled out in body bags. The way I see it, if you have a foul mouth or like to listen to offensive music, that’s your deal. But, when you’re in public, people should use their filters and be respectful. That means hold off on the pilau language, pull up your pants so we don’t all have to see your butt or underwear and turn down your nasty music so our ears don’t bleed. Oh no, now I’m starting to sound a lot like my grandmother . . .
On the flip side, many positive changes have come with age. For example, I feel like I’m more forgiving than I was in my teens and 20s. In the past, if someone did something to intentionally hurt me or make me mad, I could hold a grudge for months, sometimes even years. I’ve always had the attitude that if a person doesn’t treat me as I want to be treated, I am better off not having him or her in my life. As a result, I’ve cut ties with a lot of people who I felt were toxic, and rightfully so.

These days, though, I’ m able to bury the hatchet and move on and still remain cordial and civil with folks, even if I don’t trust them or want to be besties with them. In the past, no way. I could tune out people who crossed me with no hesitation, as if they didn’t even exist. I think that was my coping mechanism and my way of protecting myself from getting hurt again. Thankfully, maturity and age now allow me to forgive and forget. I hope I’m still singing this same tune the next time someone cuts me off on the H-1 Freeway.

Another positive thing about getting older is that I look forward to spending time with my family — and probably even more so since I’ve been away from them for the last year and a half while I’ve lived and worked on Läna‘i. When I was in intermediate school, we owned a red, buss-up Nissan. I was so ashamed of it that I would ask my mom to drop me off down the street when she took me to meet my friends. She’d always say, jokingly, “Good, I don’t want your friends to know that I’m your mommy, either.” In high school, all I wanted to do was hang out with my friends. Even when I was in college, the thought of going on a trip with my family was not my idea of “a good time.” Going to museums instead of bars, or waking up early instead of enjoying the time off from work catching up on sleep just didn’t sound like fun to me.

Two years ago, however, the women in my family — my mom and aunty and my sister and I — went on a sisters’ trip to Bali. It was one of our best vacations ever. What I love about being around my family is that we can just be ourselves and, we all love to do the same things: eat, shop and get massages. We spent 10 wonderful days doing just that. We also visited temples and a number of other tourist attractions. Most importantly, though, everyone came back friends. In fact, before the end of the trip, we were already talking about where we would go on our next trip.
And, finally, getting older has definitely made me more appreciative. I find myself looking around constantly and just being really grateful for all of the opportunities, people and things in my life. I am so lucky to have such awesome family and friends. I am in awe of all of the accomplished mentors and professional coaches who have helped guide me — little ’ol me — over the years. I often wonder how I managed to be so lucky.

Turning 35 seems kind of daunting and depressing. However, I am determined to make the most of getting older. I can only hope to age gracefully, gain as much experience as I can, develop new skills, create wonderful memories along the way and enjoy the ride . . . even if the ride is slower and quieter. Hey, according to Oprah Winfrey, 50 is the new 40, which means 30 is the new 20. If that’s the case, then I can’t wait, because my 20s were a blast!

Shara Enay Birbirsa recently relocated to Honolulu from Läna‘i, where she worked for Pülama Läna‘i, to accept a position in corporate banking. Shara is a former writer for The Hawai‘i Herald and Hawaii Business magazine. She has been writing this Drama Queen Journals column since 2006.


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