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..

I Like Strong Women: Kay

I like strong women, as you know. And in accordance with yesterday’s summer solstice, I can only speak about one woman- my mother. The summer solstice is her birthday. My mother is a strong lady. She’s the kind of lady you’d like to know (if you don’t already). She’s the kind of mom who will tell you why this isn’t a good idea while continuing to be supportive. She is a mother and a friend to all. More than once we’ve walked through the grocery store or into a shop only to have multiple young people (kids my age or younger) run up to her, want to talk to her, give her a big hug. It wouldn’t surprise me if she lends you her car (or mine) for the day just because you need a hand. Or maybe you need a place to stay? That’s what guest rooms are for, she’d say.

It’s hard for to sum up why my mom is someone worthy of the strong women category. How do you describe your mom? That’s no small task. I’ve been brainstorming what key words I think describe her. Arts, education, generosity, kindness, forgiveness, respect, absolute cheeseball.

My mom has worked for University of North Carolina School of the Arts for over 20 years in different capacities. I don’t think she picked this job because she wanted to support the arts. I think she started there because it was part time and she could be home by the time I got off the bus from school. Despite this, it has become her passion. She may be a staff member there but she is also a patron. While she might not be able to help fund your local production, she’ll put up one of your out of town stars or crew members for a few weeks while the show is up, if it will help you save a few bucks. She’ll donate cakes or cookies at the School for students to sell for fundraising. And when the curtain goes down, she’ll be that audience member who starts the applause.

As did many women of her era, she chose to get married instead of finishing her college degree. And while I don’t think she’d ever choose to change her life story, I do think that she would like to have finished school. Because of this, she has always been a loud supporter of education. She has been pursuing her own degree off and on for the last few years as time has allowed and she has always encouraged my sister and I to better ourselves with education and any other means at our disposals. As an employee UNCSA, she has always tried to help the students she encounters have meaningful experiences.

I don’t think anyone could argue that my mother is not a woman of principle. She believes strongly that how you treat other people is the most important thing. While she may not always live up to her own expectations, she strives for all her interactions with others to involve generosity, kindness, respect and when appropriate, forgiveness. My mom lost a car and a bike by lending it to someone (one got totaled, the other stolen from the temporary owner) who needed it and would do it again, without a moment’s hesitation. She is always willing to listen to those who need to vent even when she is tired. She would never dream of intentionally being disrespectful to someone else. And although, it may take a while and it may be a struggle, she strives always to forgive because letting go of such things helps her as much as it may help the other person.

My sister and I often think that she is too generous but she isn’t blind or a fool. She takes action with intention and understands the consequences. To her it is more important to give someone a chance and get taken for granted, then not to give them the chance at all.

She’s no saint. She’s a mom and does all the kinds of things that make you roll your eyes and go, “Aw, MOM!!!” in that oh my gawd, you are so embarrassing sort of way. She can be bossy and she can be wrong, but she’ll typically admit that she is or at least that she understands where you’re coming from.

I am lucky to have such a strong woman in my life to be my example. A few days ago, a friend asked me what good qualities/traits that my parents gave to me. My mother has given me an avid curiosity, a belief in the importance of family, the knowledge that only you can truly make yourself happy, the idea that art can be education in itself, to have pride in being a woman, that I should always want to better myself whether that mean exercise, education or being a better friend to others and that nothing is better than laughter and wine around a kitchen table with the people you love.

Happy Birthday Mama. I love you.

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Who’s that pretty mama?

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Another Year

Sometimes these terrible unexplainable absolute tragedies happen. Things that leave you speechless. Things that make you think, how can one family or one town experience so much suffering? How does so much get piled on one plate?

The only reason, the only rationale I can come up with for these things happening is to make us grateful for the things we do have. We take for granted so much and if the only thing we take from these tragedies is that we start to appreciate the good in our lives, then isn’t that something?

Every year, most of us struggle with our birthdays, even if it’s just a little. We think about where our lives are going, the time we’ve wasted, what we want out of life, and of course, about that big 30/40/50 or whatever we’re approaching. That’s okay. It’s important to reflect. But for me, the most important thing that I do each birthday, is be thankful. I’m thankful first for another birthday and for my health. It’s something I’ve never to deal with. My health is something I always take for granted, but I know that I am lucky to do so. I’m also thankful for my family. I complain about them, like all people do, but the truth is I have no idea what I would do without any one of them.

So it’s another year for me. I’m 27 and a day. And I have a beautiful, kind, generous family. I have a sweet, genuine boyfriend. I have a job that is making me grow as a professional and as a person. I have friends who care about whether or not I have a good birthday. I really couldn’t ask for anything more.

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