I turned 900 months old this spring. Some say that calls for a platinum celebration; in England it warrants a diamond jubilee. I accept that it’s my body’s age, kind of a milestone, but it feels surreal. It’s like I time-traveled from being the youngest in my class to the oldest on my block. The "aha" of it lies in the lovely secret revealed to me when I blew out all those candles. Housed inside my softer body lies basically the same me of decades ago. Like concentrated orange juice, I’m the 40-year-old me, only more so.

What shifts in your mind when you hear someone is 75? I saw a card that said, “Bad news, you’re 75. Good news, I’m not.” I’m here to tell the person who wrote that card a thing or two — while admitting that’s a phrase someone in my age group would use.

I don’t identify as an old person. My age is one of my attributes, like being a good Scrabble player, or a New Yorker or Sondheim fan. I still love bubble gum and Harry Styles, never miss “SNL” and shop at Anthropologie. I watch the Grammys and wear Skims (Kim Kardashian’s underwear line); and the curiosity that made me a person who writes hasn’t diminished. Most important, I’m still relevant in the lives of those who matter to me. So seriously, how withered and teetery can I be?

It's true I see things that I once merely looked at: Like the astounding miracle of a big, pregnant belly. And dinner at 6:30? The better to accommodate another hour of binge watching.

While I don’t try to run as fast as I can for the train — or walk down a flight of steps without holding onto the banister — it’s no biggie. Hearing aids are now unnoticeable and rechargeable. It’s no exaggeration to say the extra pills I take daily actually save my life. I appreciate the gift of turning this age in 2022.

I grew up following a carefully plotted road map, but the generation before me left no directions for this part of my life. If I look in the rearview mirror, I’m thrilled to never take another math test, interview for a job or worry about turning 75. At this landmark birthday, I’ve seen the glorious and painful big picture and have a sense of clarity about what’s coming. I take the small stuff less seriously. It takes a lot more to throw me.

I read a newspaper headline that said, “Man pleads guilty in DWI collision that killed woman, 74.” It made me wonder why her age was a pertinent fact for the headline. Did her age make it more of a crime? Less of a crime? Unless the story is about Greta Thunberg or Jane Fonda, the automatic inclusion of age seems a bad habit — except when it comes to obituaries. I read those alphabetical notices of the dearly departed each morning with my coffee. What accomplishments did their loved ones find worth including in those few column inches? How old were they? Anyone else have cancer? Their stories have helped me figure out what’s important, sometimes influencing me to live my day a little differently. More aware. More appreciative.

The next time someone asks me how old I am and it feels invasive, I’m going to ask the person’s weight. I’d never have been brave enough before, but people are more forgiving of such behavior when your age is equivalent to 24 Celsius. After experiencing more bliss and tragedy than I could have foreseen, I’ve also earned the right to say “no” when I find myself asking, “Do I have to?”

At LitFest in April, I heard Anna Quindlen say she didn’t know of one writer who actually likes to write. Her colleagues dread and fear it. They procrastinate in the most creative ways to avoid sitting down to do it. Sort of how people feel as they approach scary-sounding milestone birthdays. We must keep in mind that each of our lives is a bestseller to our loved ones. Here’s to celebrating our hard-won success.

Marcia Byalick,



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