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My girlfriend turned 30 in August, and we celebrated the occasion by decorating the carpet with wrapping paper and dining in style into the evening hours. I knew it was a special day for her, and I wanted to make sure to reciprocate the joy I feel in knowing her as my closest companion. It was a personal goal of mine for her to be swept away into the first day of her 30s, and in return for my contributions, she humbled me with the knowledge that she had already received the gift she wanted most ... the comfort of a quality relationship.

Now although she might claim otherwise, I sensed she was dreading the day as it approached. She spoke affectionately of the period of her life that will forever be coined as her 20s, but seemed bewildered at times as to how the stage could have passed with such unwavering swiftness, and that some old bag of bones was looming on the horizon, ready to take her place. I reassured her often that through the ages, the clock has longed to stumble upon that 13th token but has yet to find success, many times over-catching a fresh scent where the initial search had begun.

I’m glad to inform you that as we woke on her birthday morning, I found my girlfriend had transitioned into her most recent year here as smoothly as a fan blade rotates around the ceiling. She had not turned to stone but into a diamond, more stunning than the day before.

Age is irrelevant. That is a statement I’ve spoken with utmost sincerity many times to someone who is verbalizing their concern over their appearance or ability in relation to their age. I adhere to that statement because although the amount of time spent on this planet is correlated to certain legality privileges, including voting for our president or toasting a glass of champagne at a wedding, it does not define your capacity or aptitude.

I look at my grandmother each time I walk into the nursing home where she now resides, and cannot help but smile. Her mind has been weakened by time, but just as the good Lord will soon take her home, He has also given me great joy in allowing the most recent stages of my life to be filled with her radiant presence. She is well into her 90s, and when she is gone, my tears will flow like a river. But that is because as the years she has spent in the flesh grow, so does my admiration for her.

She knows more than I may ever even dream of. She has seen great joy and great loss, many times over in her life, and yet is as faithful to her beliefs as any person I know. She has seen her children grow and her grandchildren blossom. Each time I walk into the room she rests in, the smile she sends me is of the warmest glows available to the eyes.

I’m tired of all these people telling me to stop calling them ma’am because it makes them feel old, or to see someone obviously closer to a senior citizen discount than their 21st birthday acting and dressing like they need to be forever young. I was taught cordiality through the use of courteous introductions, and it is how I show respect. When I see an ad on TV or online that tells me the tricks a 57-year-old mom used to look 27 again, I shake my head.

Why would you want that? Did you not take care of your opportunities when they clocked you upside the forehead many years ago? This 21st century culture too often congregates appearance and importance in the same cathedral, as if physical features are at the epicenter of the known universe. You’ll be a god, until you look god awful, and then you’ll be forgotten.

I’m almost 29 years old, but my reason for being here is not to flip the calendar pages. I want to be known for my kindness, remembered for my creativity. I choose to wear my heart on my sleeves, and grow roses of the mind, my words the flower garden. I pray that every person in my life is strengthened just by knowing me, and that my best characteristics steal the show because they have nothing to do with my age or appearance. I look forward to each year that approaches, that I may see the sun rise a thousand times over.

Hey baby, you ever hear that 30 is the new 20? Well if you ask me, 30 is the new “most intelligent, beautiful, sophisticated, eloquent, well-rounded and strongest form of yourself you’ve ever been.

Until tomorrow.

Eric Engel, formerly of Tiskilwa, now resides in Madison, Wis. He can be reached at eazywritin84@yahoo.com.

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