Like a fine wine, I get better with age. Well, unlike a fine wine it takes a lot of work to get better with age. I haven’t been chillin in a bottle in a cellar waiting to be uncorked. In my younger years, the words “midlife crisis” caused my eyes to roll. I swore at that time, I would not be one of those people who freak out and completely change their lives just because of their age. So, as I approached this trigger for life-altering activity, I began to feel a need for my own change. I had no desire to dress like a 20-year-old or go skydiving, but there was twinge in my heart for something more. The unavoidable cliché of soul-searching began, and I took a look back to see what lessons I learned so I could figure out where I wanted to go.
As a young girl, I learned the power of play. I spent hours in make-believe lands being someone other than me. It was my world. My rules. My story. However, on occasion I would allow my brother to enter and cast him a role with script in hand. I loved the illusion of control I felt over the story because in the end everything worked out. My way was the best way.
As I got older, I was introduced to the world of sports and belonging to a team. It was no longer my world or my rules, but what was best for the whole. Sacrifice for the team was the most important rule because we played as one. I played softball for years with the same girls, some of whom are my friends today. We spent all summer traveling, practicing and playing a game we loved and learning how to be a girl during the most awkward time to be a girl. I did not have to like someone to want good for them. Differences didn’t matter, because we needed each other’s strengths to get what we all wanted. We were girls competing, not with each other but together. I learned how to be another girl’s cheerleader and how good it feels to celebrate a win as one.
Oh the teenage years…just wow! So many words come to mind with so many stories and lessons attached. Evolution is the only common thread woven throughout these years of growth. I lost my dad during this time, and my idea of what family should be evolved. The grunge revolution hit and my taste in music and fashion evolved along with it. As I entered into high school and left the safety-net of childhood behind, the faces of my friends evolved. I met a boy who would become my husband, and with that my plans for the future began to evolve. These new faces, this new boy and eventually me, began driving and the boundaries of my world grew exponentially in an instant. The evolution of this girl into a legal adult was messy and hard and beautiful and fun.
I theoretically became an adult before turning 20, but I remember the first time I felt like a real adult out in the real world – when I got on my own health insurance and then paid my first electric bill. My 20’s brought with it boundaries by society and by me. I learned early on, that ending the night at 4:00am did not negate the fact I was due at work by 6:30am. I learned that I could still be broke on payday because bills being due wait for no one. Early in my career, I learned that being a qualified, intelligent, educated woman, did not guarantee me fair pay or an opportunity over an underqualified, less educated man. I learned the wedding is the easiest part of marriage. I learned that even when you follow all the rules, there are things you don’t have control over. Just when I felt the lesson of loss again, I was taught the joy of true love in not one but two tiny humans. My 20’s let me learn which rules to follow and how to write my own.
Confession time – turning 30 was ROUGH! Looking back, it was probably in combination with becoming a mother that caused this painful transition. I learned more in this last decade than any other time in my life. Learning how to manage being a woman and a mother and a wife and an employee and a friend and all the other hats I had to wear was a constant juggling act I failed at over and over again. I learned I could love these little girls more than my own life, and because of that they could push me to dark places I didn’t know existed. Again, loss taught me that nothing last forever. I learned that tattoos hurt worse than they say. I learned that you cannot hate someone without loving them. I learned the true power of forgiveness is freedom and forgiving myself is an action to take not an abstract concept or a quote on a pillow. I learned how to be a real friend and how to recognize real friendship in others. I learned I can define what love and marriage is for us and no one else has to understand it for it to be real. I learned the power of vulnerability and I cannot go wrong when I share my truth with others. As the last days of my 30’s are upon me, the theme of acceptance for living life on life’s terms seems a good fit for this decade.
Tomorrow I turn 40. I am not in the best shape of my life, but I do have a shape. I have lived too much life to have the body of a 22-year-old and I am grateful for that! I want to live, not preserve myself like that fine wine waiting for a special occasion. I do take care of myself, but I also love ice cream and pizza. I have a body of a 40-year-old and I celebrate that opportunity! I am more comfortable in my own skin than I have ever been, but there are days of embarrassing-awkward- struggle.
So, here is my midlife crisis spread out on this page. My lessons and soul-searching lead me to write and share this because I know I am not alone. I am no better or worse than the woman next to me. We are all just trying to figure out how to keep the party going and enjoy the ride. I love sharing my story with you all and I only hope you can relate to something that makes you realize we are all connected. This beautiful life I have been given is full of tears from laughter as much as pain. Each day I have a choice to be grateful and keep learning. All the lessons have gotten me this far – bring on the next 40!