“How are we celebrating your birthday next week?” my mother asked as we gave our dog, Rufus, a bath. In truth, she was giving him a bath, while I took pictures of his adorable, soapy face. I’m very helpful like that.
I groaned. “Let’s not and say we did?”
“No! You are the age of Jesus. We need to celebrate!”
“The age of who now?”
“L’eta di Gesù,” my mom repeated matter-of-factly as she pulled a flailing Rufus out of the tub and began to towel him off.
“Because I’m 33?”
“Exactly. My mother always used to say it was the best year and good things will happen.”
“I don’t understand how this is a good thing. You know that 33 is the age that Jesus stopped aging, right? Because he DIED.” I really emphasized the word “died.” Maybe too much.
“Yes, but then he came back! And he did so many epic things before he died. It is your time to do great things.”
“Is this the Italian version of a sweet 16? Are we going to have a Holy 33?”
She didn’t find me funny; neither did Rufus, who had just jumped on me and rubbed his Eau de Wet Dog into my wool sweater.
That day was the dawning of the Age of Jesus. I let the sun shine in and with it came a bit of pressure and a surprising surge of excitement. What was going to happen during my Holy 33? Would I meet Toto Cutugno? Find inspiration for my first book? Get a tattoo? Would I finally learn to parallel park? The possibilities seemed endless.
Today, we are 327 days into the epic journey. So what did I do with it?
Well, I bought my first home. I drove the gorgeous 17 miles of Big Sur. I saw Il Volo perform live. While on a work trip in London, I had high tea. While visiting my sister in D.C., a bird pooped on my head — a sure sign of good luck, arguably brought on by l’Eta di Gesù.
I returned to Italy. Setting foot in Rome for the first time in a decade was nothing short of a religious experience. We only had a week to trip over cobblestones, over-imbibe vino, and over-indulge at aperitivo, but it was absolutely epic.
Of course, the whole year wasn’t day-after-day larger-than-life experiences. Frankly, there were even more lame attempts and horrible failures. I killed three plants. In Mexico, I had a run-in with a giant cockroach. I gained 10 lbs. and then lost 10 lbs. I accidentally dropped my keys into a dumpster — a real low point. And I lost our annual cookie-decorating-contest, again.
Halfway through the Holy 33, I was visiting my grandmother. Like always, she asked me what was new. I told her about work, upcoming travel and a new hummus recipe. She asked again, what else? I talked about my new gym, and that I was considering getting bangs, or a mal occhio tattoo. She asked yet again, what else?
“Grandma, I just told you five new things!
“Well, did you meet anybody special?”
And there it is. For some, the most epic thing I could have done with my 33rd year was fall in love, an achievement that would certainly tip the scale.
Well, I didn’t fall in love, didn’t even come close. And I’ll tell you the truth: I don’t mind. At some point during the Age of Jesus, I stopped comparing myself to others. I let go of the idea of what I thought my life was supposed to look like at 33 and began to appreciate what I already have: my family, friends, career, health. I didn’t meet Toto Cutugno, turn water into wine or change my relationship status. But I’m the happiest I’ve been in 10 years, and that does more than tip the scale, it destroys it.