Justin Trudeau, 43, is prime minister. Um, what have I done with my life?
He introduced me to a friend who was in town for a party, one Justin Trudeau.
Currently topping my lengthy list of “middle-class problems”– right up there with “depilate more assiduously” and “pay car insurance”– is the issue of how best to deal with the fact that Justin Trudeau, a man only 31-and-a-half-years my senior, is about to become prime minister of Canada.
I’m not sad about it. I’m delighted – for my country, for him, for the beautiful, beaming Sophie with her yoga-sculpted curves and wavy hair in a fashionable shade of “bronde” (half brown, half blonde). I’m happy for their three kids – the girl, the boy and the cherubic, bright-eyed baby. I imagine them all in their sunny kitchen on a Saturday morning, making oat-bran pancakes and chatting in a perfect blend of French and English about all the things they are going to do that will astonish people. Things like laughing and smiling with conviction, having an open dialogue with the media, letting cabinet ministers say what they want and just generally being nice.
At some moments I feel about Trudeau the way Truman Capote felt about the socialite Babe Paley,
“She had only one flaw: She was perfect – other than that she was perfect.”
The issue isn’t Trudeau’s perceived flawlessness. The truth is, Trudeau bothers me slightly because, well, he makes me feel old. Or, if not exactly old, just unaccomplished. And exhausted. And desperately in need of a blow dry.
For those of us on the cusp of our thirty-tenth birthday – the biggest birthday of all after the first one, since it happens smack in the middle of the action in an average life – the election of Trudeau poses a serious problem, which boils down to this: If a guy my age is now prime minister, then what the hell am I doing with my life?
Our generation – mine and Trudeau’s, the one sandwiched uncomfortably between Generation X and the Millennials – has just assumed the mantle of power. We are, or at least one of us is, running the country. The Canadian electorate has just put us in charge.
And I ask you this, what on earth were they thinking? Can’t they see we’re still just a bunch of hapless kids, play-acting at being grown-ups with careers and marriages and children? Can’t they see it’s still just a rehearsal?
Except of course it isn’t. There is no denying the crushing realness of this stage of life we’re in – that period when your children are small and you’re in the prime of your working life – the do-or-die period, when everything is meant to happen and yet it often feels like nothing can because you’re so perennially exhausted that it’s hard to see straight.
I had a little cry when I saw the election results, not only because I was happy and relieved for the country but because, looking at the beaming face of the man my own age we had chosen to run it, I realised that life had just got very, very real.
At a Toronto wedding recently, I ran into an old friend who works in television. We got to talking about politics and I reminded him that about a dozen years ago, he introduced me to a friend who was in town for a party, one Justin Trudeau. We were all just starting off in our first jobs back then, and Trudeau was a former schoolteacher famous for nothing apart from being handsome and delivering his famous dad’s eulogy.
“Do you remember how we said, what on earth is Justin going to do with his career?”
I reminded him. We had a big laugh and then stood there a bit uncomfortably. The TV producer and I are still doing the same jobs today (me writing for this publication and him producing an entertainment news show) whereas Trudeau, well … he’s had a wee bit of a promotion.
And that’s okay! It could be worse. I could be my mother, who only ever saw one Canadian prime minister her own age, and that was Kim Campbell, who became Canada’s first female leader in 1993, when my mum was 42.
“I didn’t even get a chance to have a midlife crisis over it, she was in and out so fast,” she grumbled to me recently.
For my generation, Trudeau seems to be the opposite of a let-down. If anything, he’s a reminder that we need to raise the bar, to do better, or at least give our wildest dreams a shot. Life, after all, just got very real. And if all else fails, we can all take up boxing.
This post originally appeared here.