Another Year Older

Y’all I got older! I am delighted each year to wake up on my birthday and find that I have made it another year. At some point I expect I may feel old, but it hasn’t happened so far. 34 seems ridiculously young. Am I old enough to be own a home, be married, have children? I’m not too sure yet here I am.

My body is the only thing that seems to show signs of wear. Some from age, some from use. I am still surprised to see how my body has changed from carrying babies. Such a strange thing I never understood growing up, how your body keeps morphing and changing as an adult. But another human lived and grew inside me- two in fact! How could I possibly be the same?

When I reflect on the last year, it reminds me of 2016. A year where everyone seemed to be saying, “politically a terrible year, though personally it was a good one.” Similarly, over the past year the world has seemed like a chaotic windstorm of events outside our home, many of which were hard to comprehend. But inside my home, within my family, we have grown stronger. I have grown stronger. My commitment to myself continues to waver but never falls away the way it has in the past. For once I can recognize the progress instead of focusing on where I am not, where I would like to be, how far I have yet to go. 

This past 9 or so weeks have brought to light just how incredibly lucky we are. While Tyler’s job was affected, we have not struggled and he’s back working this month. I will likely work from home for many more months and although I have not yet learned how to take regular breaks, I am getting used to this “work from home” thing. The slower pace of life has taken away my desire to always be productive. I threw the sourdough starter away. I put my embroidery back in its box. I’ll get to it again one day, but when I simply just want to. Not because I feel I have to be doing something.

Whether it’s due to the pandemic or my new super-healthy attitude, I find myself more in the present than ever. Not being able to plan trips or see friends does really help, but I’d like to give some credit to the work I’ve done to get here. I am still improving. I am still short tempered with my children and my spouse. I am still reminding myself to exercise and that m&ms and cheese is not a well-rounded snack  (but shouldn’t it be?). I’m okay with that.

I’m looking forward to celebrating another year with some takeout food, my sweet family and a little back porch time.

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The Birthday Question

Recently I was asked “a birthday question” of “What have you learned this year?”

What a fucking question.

What more could I have possibly learned this year? (Kidding, clearly I still have a long way to go.)

I have learned that I sell myself short. Sure, I knew this but I used to think of it as humility or sacrificing for the greater good. I realize now it keeps me from feeling like I deserve to ask for things- money, job title, support, friendship, time for myself. It’s funny how my children have been the ones who have taught me selflessness but also to advocate for myself. Tonight I kept one arm outstretched to block Haines from picking the blueberries out of my salad as the other arm spooned pureed carrots into Austin’s mouth.  Also, that moment pretty much sums up motherhood.

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I learned about boundaries. Boundaries are the key to relationships of any kind. It’s not something I ever understood the value of. They had a negative connotation. Shouldn’t our most meaningful relationships exist without boundaries? Anything goes! But boundaries are as simple as expecting honesty from your spouse/friend/parent or drawing a line between work and home. In parenting boundaries feel particularly few and far between but they can still exist if you choose them. It is not a bad thing to move a baby into their own room or to insist that a toddler maintains their bedtime simply so you can be alone for once. It is not bad to say, “Play by yourself for a few minutes” and mutter “…before I lose my shit.”

I have learned I am strong, resilient and patient- three words I would not have used previously to describe myself. Were these qualities there all along? Surely, they have not just sprung to life but whatever the case may be- I feel them now. This is as much due to being able to push through when things are hard as it is knowing when to call it quits.  

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I learned about the constantly evolving human. Even if we cannot change our bodies, our circumstances, our income, we can change our minds. We can change our outlook. We can change our perception. And that can change your whole life.

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I have so much more to learn and wonderful people to learn it with. Thank goodness. Here’s to 33.

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All Grown Up: Thirty and Counting

Two weeks ago I turned 30. The big 3-0. Honestly, it was kind of anti-climatic. I’ve been thinking about turning 30 for several years now and was really looking forward to it. But turning 30 isn’t like turning 21. There isn’t a lot of fanfare. No one suggests you take 30 shots. Old creepy men do not buy your drinks. People ask you if you feel older. Yes. For the first time ever yes, I feel older on my birthday.

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My 21st birthday lunch in Glasgow, Scotland

That isn’t to say I’m not still excited by the change. I’ve never been one to dread a birthday. I do not lose sight that getting older is a gift. It’s a mix of just being lucky and a few good choices. Both allow me to turn 30 and hopefully to have many more big birthdays.

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My 30th birthday at Cape Fear Escape Room

While I can’t speak for everyone, I often hear a consensus around your twenties and thirties.  Your early twenties are pretty awesome. I loved college. I felt surrounded by knowledge and the opportunity to learn more. There were awesome conversations, challenging ideas and a lot of great parties. It wasn’t all wonderful as I still struggled with loneliness, anxiety, and self-doubt but the environment I was immersed in was positive and rewarding. From there I traveled- Australia, New Zealand, Wyoming- trying to find a path in the world for myself. This is really what I think of when I look back on this time. It was all about self-discovery. While I chose to do it in beautiful surroundings, it was also pretty painful. Putting yourself on a journey to find your direction is…overwhelming and can be somewhat anti-climatic. I didn’t have any epiphanies. The issues from college still hung on strong.

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At 23 visiting Uluru in Australia

And then I turned a corner- hello 25! Part of this turn was falling into a job that actually interested me. Another was meeting a partner who was (is) supportive and loving. Part of it was making new friends and developing a community where I felt like I belonged. What I think it came down to are two things: a little more maturity (I could probably use more but I’ll take what I’ve got) and being surrounded by positive, uplifting people. At work I had a boss that built me up. At home I had roommates who laughed and loved and worked hard. They weren’t “drag you down in the gutter with them” type of folks. It’s not as though I haven’t had this before, but not to the same degree and not the way I needed it. And so you discover another life lesson, choosing your friends is important.

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Supper Club Reunion in Austin last weekend

I was 28 when we moved to Wilmington. Parts of the move have been very hard. Leaving my community of folks wasn’t easy. I’ve been lucky to find a new group who embody these same qualities. Things are different though. Life is Austin felt like anything could happen. Here things feel…steady, stable, a bit like I’ve found the good life.

So welcome 30! I’m happy you’re here. I’m ready for a little less self-discovery and a little more making roots in the evolution of me. This year will be another big one and I can’t wait for every step along the way.

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Celebrating 30 at Greenfield Lake Ampitheater

 

Roller Coaster of Love

Long distance dating is a mess. It can be totally worth while but if it’s for a long period of time then go ahead and resign yourself to an emotional roller coaster.

Sometimes when your special someone is gone you’ll be all “Who runs the world? Girls.”

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And you’ll eat cantaloupe for dinner in your most unattractive underwear while you watch Orange is the New Black. You’ll alternate between awesome lady time and awesome alone time.

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And then just because you had to wake up alone you’ll lose your shit.

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And the knowledge that your loved one has chosen to be in another location despite your relationship (unless this is a prison situation, that’s no so much by choice) will piss you off and you’ll be Dawson Leary crying all over again.

But the lowest point of all this roller coaster of love business was always right before my birthday. I wanted us to be together for my birthday because I am the kind of person who makes a very big deal out of birthdays. I tell everyone it’s my birthday for weeks. I drop it into casual conversations wherever I can. And so each year I dreaded my birthday. I was always making big elaborate birthday party plans but thinking about canceling and hiding away the whole time. But I knew if I just waited until May 22nd this would be the lift I needed to ride the next roller coaster wave. It never failed. My birthday parties are excellent.  Being surrounded by friends who are glad you were born is just a great way to spend a day. I highly recommend it. Never skip your birthday.

This year is different. This year there is no roller coaster. This year I am looking forward to my birthday. The days before have included the first book club meeting (yay!) and a hair cut and still hold seeing Lake Street Dive at Ziggy’s, the science of alcohol at the Cape Fear Museum and then dinner on my birthday with new friends. Ain’t too shabby.

It’s another year and I’m still getting older. Cheers to that!

The Evolution of Personality

I’ve heard time and time again that people don’t change. It’s always, “He’s a liar, she’s a thief, they’re crazy” followed by “People don’t change.” But think of yourself. Think of who you were as a child, then as a teenager, as you are now and then you think you will be. Do you really think people don’t change?

You’re wrong. People do change, all the time. A lot of the times it’s not in the way we’re looking for (and what we’re looking for is confirmation that they’re the same, everything else gets thrown to the wayside). When I think of the best people in my life, the smartest and most kind, I think of the ways they’ve changed. When I think of my mom during the time that I was a child, I think of a great mom but I also remember how tense she was and how closed off. Now I think of her as an open book, kind and welcoming to everyone she meets. When I think of one of my favorite college roommates I think of her as a party animal, ambitious but social to the extreme. Now that I speak to her as an adult, I see how steady she is, how focused. Her social interactions are now purposeful and have meaning.

I can’t describe how I was as a child. My dad always describes me as impish and unafraid, but what I remember being was watchful. I remember watching the people around me and feeling like I was different, like I couldn’t relate. That eventually came out in my personality, as it often does, in high school. It’s a mild version of a story you’ve heard before. I dyed my hair pink a few times,  refused to wear a bra (I thought society was trying to hold me back.. in hindsight society was trying to hold me up.. literally), flirted with Wiccan ideas, and wore outfits that raised a lot of eyebrows. I wasn’t able to decide between punk rock and hippie and tried to alternate clothing styles between the two. Both were pretty pathetic attempts at expressions of personality. My coworkers who know me today find this surprising. Now I find that I come across as vegetarian (can’t anyone see the meat in my lunches!?), as straight forward (again a surprise for me), but also as someone who always does what they’re supposed to. And Alaskan boy and I always joke (but no, really) that if we’d met each other as high schoolers, there’s no way we’d have dated. I don’t think I would have given him the time of day and he probably would have mocked my crazy clothes and very different ideas.

No matter what, there are some things we’ll always carry with us. Some of these things are experiences. Once they’ve happened, they’ve imprinted on to ourselves and we’re forever changed. Some of these things are us, personality traits that never leave. For instance, while I feel ideas are meant to challenged, rules have always given me anxiety. I’ve loosened up a little over time but no food in the theatre means no food and deadlines are final. I’m always on time unless I really can’t help it and I’ll never show up at someone’s house without an offering of some kind. And with any luck, I’ll always be obsessed with books.

This is a fitting topic for the eve of my 28th birthday, the sort of time where you always take a step back and think about the past. Am I where I want to be in my career, in my personal goals? Do I feel good about myself? Did I accomplish anything in the last year? You know the drill. For once I’m so busy looking forward to the year ahead (marriage and a move- ah!) that I have trouble looking at the last year and all that’s happened. For once. Things have changed..