Over the weekend, I turned 35.
I had the most amazing time, savoring the blessings of getting to gather safely with family and my best friend from high school, indulging in some wonderful food and drinks courtesy of my awesome husband, and anticipating a new year filled with so much love and new memories.
This year was a good balance to last year’s bittersweet birthday that was filled with wonderful birthday surprises during a time I was feeling very cynical about the pandemic (and while everyone else was being REALLY optimistic about how close it was to ending), a time where I didn’t even feel like celebrating. This year, my actual birthday was all very well planned and if anything overly communicated, and the simple celebrations felt indulgent because they were with people I had missed so much. This year I feel hopeful about what is to come.
After over a year of being with my immediate family fairly constantly thanks to how seriously we took social distancing and the amount of virtual learning that occurred, I received the most wonderful birthday gift of some quiet alone time. It has been several years since I asked for a staycation, so my husband thought it was high time to gift me one again. Something that was really great to realize during those 20ish hours away was that I mostly wanted to do the same things I do in everyday life. I wanted to move my body, to write and to listen to some of my favorite podcasts and music, to enjoy the sounds of nature and thank God for sunshine and coffee. It’s just that I was able to enjoy those things a bit more thanks to a much slower pace. One night away gave me time to rest, to eat treats without having to share them, and to write in an uninterrupted way for the first time in I can’t even tell you how long!
I also had a lot to think about during that alone time. I thought about what my 16 or 21 year old self would think of me now. What would be shocking (ie COVID), what would be totally amazing (oh hi, I run and actually enjoy exercise now…), what would be disappointing (no, I’m not on broadway or at the Royal Shakespeare Company and student loans are the worst)… etc.
But mostly what I thought about was how grateful I am that I’m still here. That I’m alive and that I’m still learning new things about myself and the world. I’m living so many of the dreams I had when I was younger, they just look a little different than I thought they would. In fact, if I didn’t have my eyes open to really look, I might miss that those dreams are right there in front of me. Those dreams are in the mountains I’ve come to love exploring so freaking much and the stability to take a night to stay somewhere that I can see those mountains from a poolside escape. They are in the kids I got to hug hard after finally having a chance to miss them and realizing I was so excited to see them again, even after just one night away. They are in the community of friends and extended family I have that wished me happy birthday in so many different ways. Those dreams are in the creative spark that is still burning away in me, even after a year of live theatre being smothered by COVID and even after several years of my career playing second fiddle to family obligations. And I am so lucky these dreams aren’t over yet because I am not over yet.
I know each year is a privilege and nothing is guaranteed. I keep thinking about how one of my favorite high school teachers died at 36. I keep wondering: if this was my last full year of life, could I make even half the impact I know she had on so many people?! The stress and shame-filled me at age 16 would probably have just cried to think about it. The perfectionist, obsessive me of my 20s would be scheduling every second of the day trying to add more things to my “impact resume” and shunning as much sleep as possible. But here I am at 35- the growing, imperfect, up and down me of now, and I’m grappling with the counterintuitive wisdom I’ve gained over the last few years. This me is pretty sure the best way to honor a life of so much impact, (and to try and live a life of my own impact), is to slow down and be present. I want to rest so I can be a better version of myself for my family and my community instead of a sleep deprived zombie or anxious caffeine monster. I want to do the little things that bring me to life that are so often the first to go when schedules get hard. And while I wonder what 45 year old me would say to this… I’m trying to control my anxiety by not looking too far into the future, so I’ll just focus on thoughts for the next year…
I made myself a little list of 35 things I hope for age 35- some of those things are little and some are big. Some I’m choosing to keep more private, but here are a few I’d like to share:
*I hope I sing my favorite songs at the top of my lungs- in the car, during dance parties with my friends, in the shower, maybe even in public!
* hope I laugh a lot. I hope I give myself new wrinkles from how often and hard I laugh.
*I hope I have lots of opportunities for hugs.
*I hope I savor my favorite foods and drinks- fancy or simple, new tastes or old comfortable favorites
*I hope I read, watch, and tell wonderful stories.
*I hope I keep thanking my body for what it does for me and that I continue taking care of it.
*I hope I can do the hard and even countercultural work of making sleep and rest a priority.
*I hope I become a little more like a “saint and poet” and have at least a few times a day to notice “every, every minute.”
*I hope I have an excuse to wear beautiful high heels again.
*I hope I feel the wind in my face on both the top of a mountains and the shores of the ocean.
*I hope to make it through to welcome 36 with joy and with gratitude for another year, just like I welcomed 35.
Hello 35, I’m so glad to be alive.