Of media representation, middle age, and, you guessed it, Dying Light of all things.

I’m not very good at writing about myself. In particular, I’m not very good at sharing me with the public, though I suppose what I’d like to say here isn’t all about me. It’s about growing older, in general. It’s about being a woman, single, and about to reach forty in only two months and about having become crucially (and painfully) aware of it.

Which, I assume, others else out there may relate to.

And I’d be lying if I’d say I have everything under control in my life; the opposite, really. It’s been rough, on and off, even without having to deal with an underlying anxiety condition and PTSD. So when it dawned on me that I was about to be forty, I struggled. Boo, Taff, the brain weasels chittered. You’ve got no family of your own. Boo, Taff, you’ve got nothing to show for so late in your life. Boo, Taff, what even are you? The answer to the latter is simple: a disaster ace who thought she’d made peace with being alone, but who was suddenly overcome with shame for not having grown up.

Whenever I am not working, I spend my time playing video games, being in love with a fictional man, writing, and mingling with other writers and my friends on a Fan Fiction Discord. That’s not very adult of me, now is it. Since where’s the actual husband? Where’s the one-and-a-half kid? Or where’s the soaring career, since if I’m not working on building a family, I should be working on that. It got rough. And then, on top of that, came the nebulous thought of okay, it’s over now for you, you’ve lived the prime of your life, what good are you now? which kinda blindsided me.

Where was that coming from?

I think I got an idea now, though I may be oversimplifying it: I hadn’t seen myself anywhere in so long, that I had no point of reference to what the next ten years would look like or that they’d be worth it. Media tells me you’re either the plucky young heroine, the love interest, the mother, or the old crone. That space in-between was a void. Or, you know, you’d find the spinster (derogatory). And I hadn’t noticed how I struggled with this until I began to write Monsters, We.

In it, Zofia is in her forties. She’s still who she was when she was twenty though; much like I am still who I was back when I began writing Latchkey Hero and Zofia was so much younger, too. I don’t have to change. I don’t have to be suspended until I hit crone just because I don’t have the whole family thing going for me. My family can be my friends. My life can be playing video games, being in love with a fictional man, and writing. That I’m older means nothing. And I owe no one some sort of compliance to their expectations of adult and middle aged woman and the only measure of success I should hold myself against is whether or not I’ve been kind enough to the people around me to make a positive difference here and there.

And writing about Zofia being older, about her still being loved, about her still living and not just surviving day by day, that matters to me and it has gone a long way to tide me over. It did the unthinkable, really: it settled my anxiety over getting older, because if she can do it, so can I.

So, yeah. I’m once again thanking Dying Light and Kyle Crane for giving me a bridge to walk on. The third one, if we are to keep count. That’s a lot of bridges.

Kyle Crane and Zofia Sirota lying on on a bed made from often mended pillows and blankets
Kyle Crane and Zofia Sirota Crane
art by johdahls

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