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I was reminded violently this weekend that while in my heart I’m 22, I am, in fact, 41. My knees are 41. My muscles are 41. My liver and kidneys are 41. And my metabolism is 41.

See, the 22-year-old me would have been fine to stay out until 3 a.m. for a close friend’s bachelorette party, and then show up bright-eyed and caffeinated the next morning to host the bridal shower. That “me” would have then spent the rest of the afternoon doing productive things like laundry and catching up on errands around town.

The 41-year-old me, however, had a slightly different experience.

First, bachelorette parties back at 22 were a lot more “whoo!” and a lot less “Whoooo … has the Prilosec and Gas-X?” We used to sit around and talk about the men in our lives and starting careers and families. Now, we talk about sending kids to college, and aging parents, and what food gives us heartburn and how to deal with it.

My bedtime at 41 is 10 p.m. If I’m really wild, I’ll stretch it to 10:40 p.m., to catch the evening monologues. But, it was a remarkable occasion, and you make sacrifices for your friends, so 3 a.m. it was this one night. Let me tell you, it took me two doses of melatonin chased by a couple of pots of Sleepy Time hot tea over two days to get back onto my normal sleep schedule.

At 41 we’ve learned that you need at least a stack of pancakes and 4 gallons of water to help your body transition into the three hours of sleep it’s going to get before the next day’s activities. Because if by some miracle, you have nothing the next morning and could sleep in, your body will wake you up at 6 a.m. because you are an adult with a job five days a week.

The wise 41-year-old has planned for the rest of the next day to be nothing but recovery mode, as if you’ve just overcome the Black Plague. Your muscles don’t spring back from dancing all night like they used to when you were 22 because you’re no longer conditioned from walking across campus six times a day now. Your back is going to remind you of this, as will the ringing in your ears from the loud club music. And really, when did music get so loud in establishments? How can you have a conversation?

My advice? Have the Icy Hot and Ibuprofen sitting on your bathroom counter waiting for you when you get home. Also, you’re going to want to have the Tums handy because no matter what you think, that plate of hot wings or fried jalapeno poppers that you split with your buddies is not going to sit well in your 41-year-old gut that’s been acclimated to salads and fiber bars.

Sure, there are things I miss about the 22-year-old me, like my favorite Rocky Mountain jeans and knees that didn’t pop when I danced in time to the music. But, I look at who I am today, and the friendships that have grown and matured along the way, and I wouldn’t trade one bit of growing these past couple of decades.

No, we sure aren’t 22. And in another 20 years we’re likely going to commiserate that we aren’t 41 anymore. But that also means another 20 years of memories with my friends. Another two decades of celebrations that keep us up past our bedtimes, and marking milestones with amazing cake that blows our diets.

I’ll bring the Tylenol.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or jlatzke@hpj.com.

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