Today is my birthday.
Some people really dig their birthdays. Some people don’t. A lot of people – particularly women – who are about my age – 38 – are ambivalent about turning a year older because they worry about getting older, looking older, feeling older, and generally are concerned that their best years are in the past. I used to think that those feelings were silly, because in my mind there is only one way to escape having another birthday – a pine box – and all things considered I think I’m OK with incrementing my age by one each December. But as I’m hitting my late 30’s, I’m starting to understand the ambivalence a little more.
If you had asked me 5 years ago what my life would look like at 38, I would have told you that it would be chaotic but good. I would have guessed that I would be happily married with two little kids, or maybe one kid and one on the way, and that I’d be doing well in my career in IT business analysis. At this point, *none* of those things are true – some for the worse and some for the better. I’m not happily married anymore because of a particularly shitty kind of cancer known as medulloblastoma, and as a direct consequence of not being married anymore, I also don’t have the two kids I was expecting to have by now. This gets me down a lot, and frequently, and is one of my largest sources of sadness and loneliness – because for all I might seem to just be a career focused individual who travels the world and kicks ass at the gym, there’s a big fat hole in my heart and an enormous amount of worry that I will never ever have the family life I have always wanted.
But on my birthday, I think it’s wise to set such concerns aside for a bit and reflect on the good things that have happened during the year, because I am not, as it turns out, in a pine box. Here are a few of the highlights of the last 365 days:
- This was a brilliant year for travel. I got my first real passport stamp this year in Aruba. This was exciting because while I had been to more places by the age of 25 than my parents visited in their whole lives, I somehow managed to reach the age of 37 without ever getting a passport stamp. I took the trip with my girlfriends Kate and Olivia (both of whom elevate vacationing to an art form) and had a blast. And I followed it up with trips to Hawaii with my momma and baby brother, and then a trip to Italy, again with my friend Kate. Good times – and I got to cross some stuff off my bucket list before the Mayans get us.
- I got a break from the professional world for a few months. For a long time, I had been burned out by Corporate America in general and my last employer in particular. But even though I *knew* I could financially weather a period of unemployment to take a break and recharge, I couldn’t make myself leave my job. So I was truly, truly blessed when the Severance Fairy visited me in late March, releasing me from a situation that was no longer serving my best interests and allowing me to figure out what’s next.
- For the first time in my life, I have finally made fitness a true part of my lifestyle. I never did much that was active or athletic until I turned 35, at which point I joined a gym and hired a trainer. But it wasn’t until this year, when I made a goal to work out 200 times in 2012, that I finally started working out because I wanted to and not because I didn’t want to waste money by no-showing a personal training appointment. This may be the most important thing of my adult life, as it makes me feel better and I believe it will break a cycle of obesity and ill health that has been in my family for some time.
- My career took a turn in a different direction – from IT to Marketing – which is very exciting. I’ve worked around marketing functions for a lot of my career, but my core focus was always software design, development, testing, and management. But partly as a result of the almost 6 month break I was able to take, I had the nerve to try something different and I was able to convince a local database and digital marketing company to take a chance on me. And if I do say so myself, I think I’m making a positive difference there.
- I have made new friends galore this year, and strengthened some existing friendships. I’ve found a few friends at my new job, and many friends at my CrossFit box, and all of them are important to me.
- Because of the attention paid to recharging after my layoff, making exercise a truly regular part of my life, and a number of other things, I feel and look better than probably any other time in my adult life. This in turn makes me feel more confident and willing to take on new challenges. Many of my friends think I’ve always had a great self-esteem and been confident, but neither of those things were true. They are *starting* to be closer to the truth as I continue keeping Busy Being Awesome.
There are other things I’m happy about this year, and other things that get me down. But today, for a minute, they don’t matter.
Bring on 38. I got this.