I’ve been joking that “this is my first 29th!” As though I would ever actually do that (or that anyone in my life would ever actually let me forgo my thirtieth birthday). Thirty does not scare me but the acknowledgement that I am so totally into “adult-hood” does seem vastly strange to me. My fiance will be thirty-five this year which means, in five years, he’s going to be forty. I’m glad he’s hitting the mile stone first and I am looking forward to being there when he turns forty. I am looking forward to Joe, a forty year old man, wrapping his arms around me and, even perhaps, growing slower, happier, easier in himself and in us. I am both utterly mortified at the idea of growing older and very much so looking forward to it. I am certainly not twenty any more so why would I want to stay in my twenties?
I am looking forward to being softer with myself and more forgiving (two things that I had no time for in my twenties) not to mention also being healthier and kinder to myself as well. These are things I had to grow into, kindness to myself (and forgiveness) were things I had to learn. Goodness to myself has never come easily to me but I have found, the older I get, the easier it has become. I am more forgiving with my own short comings now and things just don’t seem as important as they used to be. The very few important things have risen higher and higher to the top and I no longer get rattled by the “other” things that really don’t matter in the big scheme of things. I call that maturity… maybe I am an adult. Or, it could also be, that I just don’t have the energy that I used to and I’ve become a lot more selective on what I give my time to. Same difference? Probably. Its not that we grow more mature its just that we’ve seen that bull shit before and know that it will pass whether we panic or not.
I am more concerned now with what we’re going to plant in our kitchen garden then whether or not I will get to see the grand canyon before I die. I am also more concerned about that lingering cough that Joe has been fighting then whether or not I ever finish my second novel. I have grown into the understanding that there is nothing in this world that comes easily or that can be forced. There is no point in fretting about getting my second book written when I don’t have the mind or the time to work on it right now anyway. The older I get the more capable I am at focusing on only what I can change, on what I want and I am getting better, year by year, at accomplishing everything I want to do more efficiently. Every year it is more clear to me that the only thing keeping me from doing what I want to do, is me. Mental blocks are becoming more ridiculous to me, if I want to work on my second book the only thing stopping me, is me. I don’t need excuses like I used to and I look forward to a few more years down the road when I may not use them anymore at all. I didn’t do yoga today? That’s all right. I didn’t feel like it. And whether or not I get my yoga practice done this morning only has to do with me.
The older I get the more I have come to the wonderful realization that there are no “shoulds” that need to exist for me. I do not “have” to do anything. There are consequences to all of our choices and all that we do every day – but we don’t have to do anything at all. This is true of our families, our children, our in laws, our everythings. “But I have to do that or I’ll be a bad daughter!” Do you believe you’ll be a bad daughter or are you doing that because you are afraid someone will think you are a bad daughter? Did you really just do that because you’re worried about what someone else will say or think about you? Every day I get up and go to work because I have a list of things that my job provides for me, not because I have to do them, but because those things support other things that I want and love in my life. If I hated my job, I would find another means to the same end but I don’t go to my job just because I have to. I also make no effort whatsoever to be a “good daughter” but I love my mom and I love making her happy, it is part of what makes my life worth while. If being that person makes me a “good daughter” so be it, but I don’t have to do anything that I do. I have grown into a far more conscious way of living where everything that I do is a means to doing more things that I want to do and everything I do I do it because I want to do it. Not because someone would see me and think “what a good daughter!” or “what a great wife!” I only do what I love and want to do and, yes, that means disappointing people from time to time. Nowadays the only person I truly work not to disappoint, is myself, no one else – and that was the hardest lesson I ever learned and am still learning. I look forward to being older and even less worried, year by year, by what other people think I need to do.
I have been renovating my grandparents’ 100 year old farm house with Joe, we started nearly a year ago today. No one starts a project like this (with the endless hours of utterly thankless work) without truly wanting to do it. There were many points of my happy place that working on this home hit for me. The first one is that I simply love taking things and making them as good as they can be. I love hard work that produces results. I love doing things that other people may be afraid to do, or never want to do. I love conquering my own fears. I love that on the completion of this house Joe and I will have our dream home at a considerably younger age then most people. We get to start working toward being debt free in our early thirties and thinking about retirement when most people our age are just beginning the long dig into the deepest debt of their lives (whether it be having babies or staring up the high mountain of college debt – neither of which he or I will be accumulating/have any interest in doing). This is what I remember when I’m slithering on my belly in our crawl space, face in the dirt, running electrical wire, everything we are not hiring out is money in our pockets that we won’t be paying interest on and thus, less time in debt, more time for doing things we love to do.
Looking back on my many miserable years in my twenties I certainly am glad to be leaving those well behind me. That miserable crazy girl was right about one thing though: if you keep your eye on the prize, no matter the distraction, and you keep believing and working toward what you want, you will get it. Perhaps it is just a law of the universe, be careful what you wish for, it will be granted to you. Sometimes I can’t help but laugh at myself, especially when I’ve got my face in the dirt, slithering around our crawl space that this is literally all I had hoped for. All and more, of course, I was beginning to think Joe didn’t exist but deep down, I knew he was out there. A man who would renovate my grandma’s house with me, a man with work ethic (imagine that! ha!), a man I could share my dreams with who would never once tell me I was romanticized or silly. He believes, like I believe, that anything we want to do, we can do. Joe proved what my mother always told me: You should never give up anything for the person you are with, the right one will do all of those things with you and so much more then you ever could have hoped for. They will never tell you that what you want is stupid or childish, or belittle any hope or desire of yours. Instead, they will gladly not only go with you, but help you and support you and, in the end, you’ll be unable to even imagine doing anything without them ever again. You’ll have each other’s backs and even if the rest of the world says your crazy, they never will.
So, to go back and be twenty again would be to give all of that up and then some (including Joe) and I will gladly take my laugh lines, my stress lines, the dirt under my finger nails, my wider hips, flatter feet, and even the scar on my eyebrow that just won’t go away. After all of that thirty seems incredibly inconsequential. Mile stone birthday next year? Bring it!