I don’t do birthdays. Anyone who knows me has heard me say that. I don’t do birthday parties or celebrations. I avoid planning birthday get togethers in my own honor. Even my husband knows, do not plan a surprise for me.
But this year is different, this year is big. Capital B I G, big. Forty!
Forty was the age of my mom, when I first thought to myself, wow, my mom is old! Like, done with her life, old. Like, old enough to be the person she will continue to be, for the rest of her life, old. Forty isn’t a time for changes, it’s a time for settling down and settling in.
Time to take stock of where I am in life, who I am in life, and more importantly, where I want to be versus where I thought I would be.
If we’re being honest, I didn’t think I’d live to be forty. I struggled a lot in my teens and 20’s with depression and self-medication. I tried a lot of solutions, none of which made much difference to my state of mind. Lots of career changes (web designer, waitress, massage therapist, administration, to name a few), lots of hair style and color changes, too many to even try to list. I did yoga, I traveled, I pursued writing for most of my early twenties with the exclusion of almost everything else.
I still find myself driven to change. I got my license to educate a handful of years ago, I started my Masters this year, in a field completely different than any training or background I have. Even the past two years of writing my blog feel like an extension of that same struggle with depression and with finding a solution.
I look back at the things I’ve accomplished in the past twenty years. Things that make me feel successful. And a part of me worries that all of it stems from depression. Could that be true? If I was a happier, more satisfied person, would I have accomplished none of the things I have?
Will I ever be happy and satisfied?
It’s a sobering thought. Because as successful as I feel I am, I’m still not satisfied or happy. I’m not even sure I know what that feels like or if I would recognize it, if it happened to me. I’m happy with my family and my life, but not happy enough to be content where I am now. There is so much more I want to be doing.
I want to be a published author of books. And yes, I’m working on it. First, a collection of essays about my experience raising a trans child, followed by a middle grade sci fi/fantasy series that my children would be proud to read.
I want to be working in a field I love. Like writing or advocacy. Or writing about advocacy. I want to teach people how to be more gender inclusive. I want to teach people how to love more openly and without judgement. I want to teach teachers how to embrace students across the gender spectrum, to make their classrooms a safer, more inviting space for everyone. I don’t even know how that happens or if it’s even possible, but I plan to find out.
I want to be financially secure. I’m tired of being weighed down by debt, I’m tired of always considering if we can afford this, or how much that costs. And I know I am privileged to have a job and a steady income, for my husband to earn a very good salary and to have health insurance. But I’m tired of being an unexpected car repair or sickness away from not being able to afford rent.
I want to be a better mom. Maybe with all of my other goals and dreams, that’s not possible. Maybe with my creative, depressive personality, it will never happen. But too often I feel like I haven’t done enough, spent enough time, given enough attention, taught more, engaged more, challenged them to be better. I almost want to delete this goal, because it seems so sad and so unattainable. Like I’m setting myself up for ten more years of failure. But it’s too important to me, to not put it out there in the universe. To hold me accountable.
I didn’t think this was who I would be, when I was twenty years old. A middle-aged woman with a middle-of-the-road life in middle class, middle America. And yet, my life feels exceptional. Exceptional in that I’ve done so much and I have so much more to do.
Exceptional because I’m forty and I’m not done yet. I have no intentions of settling down or settling in or settling for any version of my life that doesn’t make my heart sing.
Exceptional because I still don’t know who I want to be when I grow up, but I can’t wait to meet her. Maybe in another forty years.
Exceptional because its mine.
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