Thirty-five is neither here nor there: Not quite on the summit of one’s life, but clearly beyond the years of young adulthood
Thirty-five is easy to pronounce. On December 28th, it was my birthday again, my thirty-fifth. Just before welcoming the new year, I always enter a new year of my life. Yet my 35th birthday was different from numbers thirty-four, thirty-two, or twenty-eight. Here’s why:
I am not one of those who complain about time passing too quickly. Much has happened in the last twelve months: throughout the world, but also in my personal and professional life. I had the pleasure of meeting many interesting people, and of working with a fantastic team of editors. If we try to look at a year through a magnifying glass, or confuse the residue of memories with the real thing, we might say that “the year flew by”. But that’s not how I approach life.
At age thirty, you’re still fighting adulthood. It is especially easy in Berlin, where a whole class of people is actively avoiding to grow up. They wear expensive sneakers that their parents refused to buy them. The idea of brand prestige was hard to convey to a generation of frugal post-war parents. I, too, wore Nike Air Jordans in Berlin, which my mother refused to buy me when they were a status symbol of adolescence.
At thirty-three, a threshold has been passed. Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, died at that age. The Christian scholar Thomas Aquinas thus taught that the resurrection would give birth to our thirty-three year old selves. In our culture, the number thirty-three carries a special significance. Yet I did not feel anything special when I crossed that threshold.
And now it’s thirty-five. Not quite the summit yet - I’d like to live past seventy-five. But it would not make sense to celebrate 37.5 years, right? So maybe forty is a good age to throw a midlife party? Or is that too conceited, as if growing to be eighty years old was nothing but a formality? I’d say that thirty-five is the proper age to celebrate the ascent to the summit of one’s life.
Some things have indeed changed. I have noticed that my body reacts differently now than it did five years ago.