Birthdays, for me, are always a time for contemplation.
And this next one’s a doozy. I thought 30 was bad. But come this Saturday, August 22, I’ll be 35. THIRTY-fucking-FIVE. Now before all you over-40’s get mad at me, I ain’t sayin’ that’s old. But you have to admit it ain’t exactly young, either.
I had plans for age 35. Didn’t you? Don’t we all have some kind of internal timeline for the things we’re supposed to have accomplished, a list we carry around silently, a checklist of sorts we formulated long ago when we were teenagers dancing in our bedrooms to The Cure and Depeche Mode? I know I do. To name a few:
Snag hot boyfriend. This one’s been on my list for as long as I can remember. I checked it off at ages 17 and 18 (do I sound smug?), but of course, the boyfriend I got at 18 is the one that matters. (Steve reads my blog.)
Graduate high school. Check, but barely. I nearly killed myself in my last year trying to play catch up after a series of high school mishaps, but I did it. On time.
Get a degree. Check… sort of. I actually have two degrees, just not the one I really wanted.
Get married. Check. (I married my hot boyfriend.)
Have kids. No check. Hasn’t happened yet and I’m way behind schedule. (Insert annoying sound of buzzer.)
Figure out my life. No check. This hasn’t happened, either. (Insert annoying sound of buzzer again.)
Do something amazing and immortalizing by the time I’m 35. (Sound of buzzer one last time, doubly long and doubly annoying.) Um, yeah. Not even close.
I’ve talked often with my friends about The Timeline and I’m fairly certain I’m not the only one who’s disappointed with the detours life has taken. Some deviations were beyond my control and some were simply bad decisions for which I can only blame myself. But the only real regret I have is that at some point along the way, I stopped trusting my instincts.
There was a point when I was a kid, maybe I was 13 or so, when I never doubted who I was going to grow up to be. When it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t get everything I wanted, and that life wouldn’t work out exactly as planned.
But as I got older, external forces seemed to chip away at that belief. Illusions turned into disillusions, and faith turned into doubt. Hope morphed into cynicism, and reality got in the way of dreams.
And now, as I approach 35, I look back at the past three and half decades and am filled with regret that I didn’t do the things I really wanted. I took the advice of too many people with “good intentions” who believed they knew me best. I took the path most traveled one too many times. I cast shadows over my own vision for my life, and focused only on my short term desires without ever contemplating the big picture.
And, somewhere along the way, I stopped listening to me.
I stopped writing, for one. Life got busy and I quit making time for it. I decided that shit jobs at Suzy Shier and Hopedale Video and CallStream Communications and Minroc Mines Inc. were all more important than putting pen to paper. Big mistake. As a result, my writing skills are about fifteen years behind where they could be had I stuck with it. I will forever regret this, even if the stories I write now do require fifteen years’ worth of life experience to make them worth reading.
But regrets cease to be helpful once you’ve learned from them. And I have learned. I really have.
And so my lessons for the coming year? Learning to forgive myself and move forward.
Happy birthday to me.