It’s my birthday today, and I turn the slightly terrifying age of 35.
Realizing that this birthday has been coming up has been a bit of a reckoning. A reckoning because 35 is a culturally scary age for a single woman. An age where society, in all kinds of discrete ways, wants to tell you you’re no longer desirable (among other things).
I’m wise enough to know that this is a message that I don’t have to choose to believe. It defines me only as much as I let it. As Brene Brown says, ‘you have to let go of who you think you should be, so that you can be who you are’.
I reside in a camp that, if I had to put a name to it, I’d have to call ‘pragmatic optimism’. Pragmatism can generally be pretty useful, though at times can also be quite terrifying – for me, it often holds me back because I think to myself, ‘gosh, I just don’t know how the rest of my life is going to play out’. But then my optimism reminds me that, hey, actually no one knows how the rest of their life is going to play out, so I might as well just get over it, and get my head back in the game.
At the start of each year, I set new year’s intentions rather than resolutions – they feel more gentle, and give me a guiding focus. This year’s intention was to ‘not rush’ – to take the time in my day to reflect, to be grateful, to make time for the things that bring me joy like walking the dog each morning… even when he wakes me up at 3AM to pee. This whole ‘not rushing’ thing has been revitalizing.
Two of my wise mentors recently said to me (independently, and without consultation – they don’t even know each other), ‘Vanessa, you don’t have to live your entire life in a year’. That resonated. It resonated for two reasons – the first, because it felt true really deep down because I’ve always felt a pressure to achieve x and y by z. I’m not really sure why – it was a story I chose to believe about myself, I guess. What’s the rush? Actually, I have no idea. It also resonated because it’s so interesting that people observe a lot about you without you needing to say a thing – a good reminder for living an authentic life.
The best part about 35 is that I feel confident in who I am. I know who I am at my core, am surrounded by tons of awesome people, and have problems that I’m pretty lucky to have. I re-read this very wise post today, and it made me smile. It was exactly the gift I needed today to open my 36th rotation around the sun. Lucky, lucky me.
“You won’t do it at the right time.
You’ll be late.
You’ll be early.
You’ll get re-routed.
You’ll get delayed.
You’ll change your mind.
You’ll change your heart.
It’s not going to turn out the way you thought it would.