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.

3 Responses to “On Turning 36”

  1. Dodd Waters says:

    I would like to use a few snippets from this for my church’s 36th anniversary. Hope you don’t mind, I will give proper credit.

  2. Darlene says:

    Hey Javacaia, This piece is deep and wide with your joy for your past, a love for this present moment and a powerful zest for your gift of the 36th year of your young life! You spoke your truth of yesterdays and projected what life is bringing you in this awesome year!

    I had to laugh, shed a tear and appreciate your talent. I am blessed to know you young woman.


  3. 66 re-turning to 36

    Dear Ms. Javacia Harris Bowser,

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article, and if I were still in the “grade awarding business” (which I have not been in over 36+ years), I would give it an A+! It was most interesting because it got me to thinking about what the heck was I thinking about when I was 36!

    I am not sure if it is the kind compassion of the loss of bed memories, or the absence of anything exciting happening at that age; or maybe these life events tend to condense and collapse upon themselves over time; but for some strange reason, everything between ages 30 – 42 was just a blur for me; and definitely there was no significant anything I could attach to age 36 in particular.

    I remember 42 because that was the year I became a NYC high school principal, and I remember that number because a lot of people commented on the fact that I was at the time (1990’s) one of the youngest principals in the school system. But between teaching in my late 20’s and becoming a principal in my 40’s, no one birthdate seems to jump or stick out.

    Perhaps it’s my own personal disinterest in my “marking” my own birthday celebrations; even as I am sensitive and responsive to the importance that other people place on these significant dates. I always worked through my birthdays, and despite a great deal of effort, I often failed to discourage my staff, family and friends from creating some kind of celebratory event (so much for your birthday celebration being about what you want!) I always saw any of my birthdays, as just another day. I seem inclined to mark my life journey by way of important events, major transformational moves, things loss, things gained, lessons learned, lessons missed, lessons relearned, reinventions and redemptions, etc.; the problem is that these events show very little inclination to occur on a birthday; and when they did, I remember everything about the event, and nothing about the particular birth day.

    But this I do know, I hold no reverence or wishful thinking for ages: 26, 36, 46 or 56 I have found that both “false memories” (alternative memories?) and regret are perhaps the two great wasters of human time. Given what I knew, and what I had available to me at the time, I always felt I made the best decisions possible. And doing 36-66 all over again would be in my view a curse and not a blessing; I actually want to move forward to 67, 77, 87… The memories I think about (able or choose to remember) and cherish as “time markers”, are not my birthdates; they are many of the same things you spoke of in your article moments of great: service, creativity, professional accomplishment, friendship, family; and most important love, which should be celebrated every day of our lives.

    Thank you for your creative contribution,

    Michael A. Johnson
    February 26, 2017

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