On Turning 36

By Javacia Harris Bowser

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the

creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love.

When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”

—Sophia Loren

Dear 36,

I don’t know what to do with you.

You are not a milestone birthday, but you feel like one as you officially declare me closer to 40 than 30. Does this make me old? Does this mean I’m “over the hill”? Was 35 “the hill”?

For me, growing old is tricky because I still feel young—most of the time, at least. Sometimes my knees and my back betray me. But my soul and my spirit are as youthful as ever. One day I looked in the mirror and told myself to never stop being a girl and for once I took my own advice.

I still believe I can make all of my dreams come true. I still record my life in journals and wear my heart on my sleeve. I still believe time with my girlfriends is as sacred as holy communion. I still adore the color pink.

So 36, I don’t know what to do with you. Society says I should mourn your arrival, run out and dye the white hairs quickly invading my curly coif. I should conceal my laugh lines and smooth the folds that appear under my eyes when I smile. But why would I erase evidence of joy?

Only I can define the prime of my life, so, 36, I will take you and have the time of my life.

I think I’ll throw you a party, 36. I’ll invite my friends and even a few strangers, too. Yes, I will celebrate your arrival with good food and great friends—and there must be cake.

I will declare that you, 36, are my favorite—at least until I meet 37.

I will read good books and write one, too. I’ll put on the page my deep thoughts and dark secrets in hopes that my honesty will light the path for other women and girls.

I will see good movies and live my life like a star.

Perhaps I will build a new business or start a new blog that will not just help women of Birmingham, but women across the nation, women around the world.

I will run. I will run for miles and miles, away from a weak mind and toward a stronger body.

I will find peace with my body and the God that gave it to me. I’ll wear a bikini and all the clothes that style experts and church folks say women my age should avoid.

I will travel—a romantic trip to New Orleans with my husband, a weekend getaway to Atlanta with my girls, a long overdue trip back to New York.

Sometimes, I will stay put. I will have a staycation with my husband so I can fall in love with him and my home all over again. I will check off all that is written on my Birmingham Bucket List and rediscover what makes the Magic City so magical.

I will celebrate your arrival, 36. I will celebrate that I am no longer on a journey to find myself. At 36, a woman knows the “self” she’s been searching for has been there all along. I often say that to become the woman I was meant to be, I simply had to remember the girl I used to be. I bought a house which allowed me to have my first home office. I recently realized I simply turned it into the room I always wanted as a girl.

I am still that girl.

I am the seven-year-old girl who climbed trees faster than the boys.

I am the 11-year-old girl who wrote poetry on Saturday afternoons.

I am the 13-year-old girl who started an empowerment club for young ladies, a newsletter for her middle school, a liturgical dance troupe for her church.

I am a girl who starts things.

I am a woman who gets things done.

So, 36, I think I know what to do with you. I will take you and go do something amazing, something that will stand the test of time, something that will never get old.

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