So I turn 40 today. If I’m being honest, this has NOT been a pleasantly anticipated milestone. When my well-intended husband attempted to plan a surprise party for me involving friends and family near and far, I nipped the plans as quickly as he made them. (Sorry, hon.) In my mind, the term “over the hill” suggests the other side of said hill involves a speedy and steady roll (or in my case, most likely a fall) downward, and I’m just not ready for that, let alone celebrating it.
This dreaded birthday has forced me to ask many questions about myself, my journey, my current place in life. Yes, I know that it is completely natural for us as human beings to question our accomplishments, the quality of our relationships, and ask the timeless question, “Who am I, really?”
As I’ve reluctantly approached this milestone, I’ve asked myself all of these major life questions and more (you’d think that I’m a philosopher):
Who am I?
What the heck is my purpose in life?
Where are my keys?
Is being a career parent enough?
Is it too late to follow my own career ambitions?
Where DID I leave my keys?
Once I stopped sulking at forever forfeiting another decade of my life, an epiphany of sorts happened. What came as a COMPLETE surprise to me is that I know the answers to more of these questions than I thought.
Let me give you some background. I am a working, volunteering, mother of four who just celebrated 20 years of marriage to my college sweetheart. For those of you doing the math, yes, we got married when we were 20, and no, it wasn’t because we had to. We were in love – young, mad, crazy love – and we still are, except for maybe the young part.
My husband and I have done almost everything out of society’s “traditional” order. We married young, before we had any idea what we were doing and before we graduated from college. We both managed to complete our degrees in the throws of working and raising a family, and while we don’t suggest this course for our children, I wouldn’t change a thing.
My life mostly involves following and supporting, sometimes begrudgingly, my husband’s career and raising our four amazing children while juggling far too many balls in the air. And not just raising them, but completely immersing myself in being their mom, their advocate, and their protector.
And somewhere along the way, I lost myself.
I also lost my ability to walk from one room to the next without forgetting why I went there in the first place.
But seriously, this loss of self is no fault of my own, my husband, or my children, nor do I resent them in any way. This just happens. It happens to many women trying to be the best we can be, for everyone but ourselves. We forget ourselves. For a long time, I truly believed I had to forget myself in order to take care of everyone else.
I have a dear friend who took up running at the height of her divorce. She originally started running because she was just so pissed off (repeatedly) at her ex that she had to blow off some steam. She slowly realized it was not only her therapy, but it was also HER time. It was her time to be alone with herself, to think by herself, to sweat by herself, to find herself. She is also the person who told me, “If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else.” She obviously had her epiphany way before I did.
What I am trying to say is I stopped questioning myself. I can’t tell you an exact moment or event that prompted this – it really just happened over time. The bottom line is that I got over myself, quit pouting about getting older and time fleeting, and started to embrace where I am and where I’m going.
I started answering my own questions. I am Laura. I am a woman. I am a person. I am a daughter, sister, wife, and mother. I love my family more than anything. I have a deep faith that I am not flashy about. I feel deeply and can be overly sensitive (I know this will come as a complete shock to those closest to me). I can strike up a conversation with almost anyone, but don’t always necessarily desire to. I love to write. I laugh at inappropriate times, completely sweat the small stuff, and am steady during crisis. I have no idea where my keys are, and I left my wallet at home when I went to the grocery store yesterday. Heck yes, being a career parent is enough! I have four amazingly talented, intelligent, beautiful, and kind children to prove it. It is NOT too late to follow my dreams, and when I look at my family, I realize that most of them have already come true. And it’s okay to be a little selfish. Or maybe even a lot.
So on this first day of my 40th year, I am a new woman. I am inspired, recharged, and determined. I am willing myself to run (if you can call it that), not because I am pissed off, but because I want to be healthy and a model of health for my children. I begin my second course towards my Master’s degree tonight, and I wrote my first blog entry today. I care less about what others think of me, and more about what I think of me. It is my time to be selfish. I found my keys (they were right where I left them). I found myself, and I’m not going to lose me again.