Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Turning 40

Actual birthday cake that my sweet friends Nick and
Marci made for me.

Today is my 40th birthday.

I’ve never been the type to be particularly bothered by age. I know it’s an oft-repeated platitude, but you really are only as old as you feel, and I can’t say that I feel especially old. Most days, it’s a shock to remember that I’m no longer in my 20s. Although I have noticed that I’m starting to look decidedly more mature - especially in the last five years or so - I don’t have any aches or pains. I still look good. And I figure - I’ve always figured - that the alternative to growing another year older (i.e. death) is worse.

So I can’t say that I’ve been approaching this birthday with any feelings of trepidation. Being the writer that I am, however, there has been a certain amount of navel-gazing going on.

Last week, I started thinking about my 30th birthday party, which was a tremendous amount of fun (and also feels like it was about a million years ago). It was surprising to realize that just about everything has changed in my life since then. The person who hosted that party is no longer my friend. In fact, we “broke up” only months after the party. Every single person who attended that party - while many of them are still friends - are people I no longer get to see because I don’t live in that state anymore. At the time, I had no idea that I would be moving away in less than three years. My husband wasn’t even in the picture, wouldn’t be for another year and a half or so. I had a different cat, my little pumpkin belly Julian, but I didn’t have a dog. My mother was still alive. I wouldn’t complete my Master’s degree for another eleven months. And, most shockingly, I wasn’t pursuing my writing career. In fact, I didn’t really write at all at the time; I wouldn’t start doing so regularly for another five years.

Sometimes, I feel like nothing ever changes. I need these milestones to make me stop and reflect and think to really recognize it, to see that life is full of change and surprises. If you had asked me on that birthday to predict what the next ten years would bring, I would have gotten most of it wrong. I never thought I’d leave Portland, or give up my cat, or lose my mom so young. I never thought I’d have the courage to chase my dream of being a writer. I really couldn’t have envisioned this life if I tried.

Instead of facing middle age with distaste or sadness, all I feel is excitement. I can’t wait to see what happens next. I know that some of it will be bad, but I’m not afraid of that. I’ve already been through a lot of the worst stuff a person can go through. I’ve found that it changed me in a good way. Every year, I figure out how to become a better person, a happier person. Every year, I become more comfortable with being me. 

So, here’s to turning 40. Here’s to chasing dreams and experiencing adventures and learning how to accept ourselves and living life to the fullest. May we all, at the end of our days, look back and think, “Yeah, I totally rocked it.”


Patricia said...

This is such an awesome post. I'm often frustrated when people don't embrace getting older. (Or their birthdays in general.) You've made a very good case for looking both back and forward. I wouldn't have guessed that your decade would look anything like it did either, but I'm glad I was along for the ride. (Though from afar.)

I think we are both late bloomers/slow to come to what we are here to do. Your positive attitude helps buoy my life choices when I get down and I thank you for setting such a good example. Happy 40th and enjoy your new decade.

balyien said...

Thanks! I feel like, in the U.S., it's difficult to grow old with grace because a lot of our worth is tied up with A. our looks and B. our accomplishments (and there's a lot of pressure to have the same kind of accomplishments as everyone else). Once I realized that I have worth simply because I exist, and nothing can take it away, it was a lot easier to look at aging and give it a big fat shrug. Does that make sense? I hope so.

Here's to many more years - for both of us - doing what we love and having fun in the process!