If you've managed to somehow miss the news, it's my birthday today. I LOVE birthdays. I mean I love them. Mine, your's, my dog's, your dog's. I think that having a special day just to celebrate one's life is absolutely fantastic. Because quite simply life, and you, should be celebrated.
It's not surprising, though, that birthdays also often come with a bit of reflection. It's not unusual to look at one's life and think: am I where I thought I'd be at this age? Could I use a swift kick in the rear? Is my life just completely somewhere I never thought it could be and I'm amazed?
When I turned 21, I was in my senior year of college, studying Exercise Science. My plan was to go directly into grad school, get my Master's in physical therapy and then, not surprisingly, work as a physical therapist. And despite the fact that I was never one of those girls who started imagining my wedding dress at the age of five, I somehow just "knew" I'd be married by the age of 24 and would have my first child (of two, a boy and a girl naturally) at 27.
When I turned 24, I was indeed planning my wedding. Not to the person I'd planned for it to be at 21, but I still seemed to be right about the whole 24-wedding thing. I was not in grad school full time for physical therapy. Instead, I was working in corporate fitness full time and my Master's in International Marketing part time. A slight departure, but so far so good.
When I turned 27, I was the farthest thing from having my first child. I was, in fact, petrified of the idea and had decided I never wanted children. I was also, sadly, on my way to a divorce. On the bright side, I was running my own travel planning company and was serving on a board of directors for an industry organization - two things I never could have imagined I was capable of doing. I was emerging as a leader in my (new) career field.
When I turned 30, I was recently engaged, and had just attended my sister's wedding. I had also just had one of (what I now know as) the worst hypomanic cycle's I've ever had. Two weeks or so after my birthday I was diagnosed with cyclothymia and put on medication quite possibly for life. I was told that if I ever wanted a family it would be very difficult because of my medications and that my condition was almost 100 percent genetic. I'd been back on the fence about having children until that point. This just made it seem too risky. (I wrote about that here). But despite the diagnosis and the finality of childlessness, I was generally happy. I was getting married in five months! Two times a charm, right?
When I turned 33, I was completely single. I celebrated my birthday with dinner and a show in New York City with my parents. I pretty much swore I was going to become a nun. Well, except for that bit about my lack of organized religion, but I'd work that out somehow.
Today, I turned 34. I am still running my travel company. I recently organized a mental health charity hike with a friend of mine, and together we raised over $1000 for brain and behavior research. I'm working on forming my own non-profit organization for mental health support and awareness. I'm (hopefully) revitalizing my side job of personal training. In fact I spent, time this morning training a friend of mine. I have held steadfast on my decision not to have children. It breaks my heart, but I am firm in my belief that it's the right thing. I have seven amazing nieces and nephews. I have a wonderful little two year old in my life who I adore, and who I'm lucky enough to have adore me. I have the love of an amazing man (I'm glad I side-barred that whole nun thing). I have wonderful family and friends.
I have no idea what the future holds. I can say, with certainty, that I'm not where I thought I'd be 10 years ago. Not in career or marital status or family status or housing situation or location or any number of other things. But I firmly believe that sometimes that which is best for us, that which will make us happiest, is quite different from the path we'd have taken if everything had gone according to our plan. I don't believe in a blue print or that "everything happens for a reason". I do feel, though, that when you are truly in the situation that makes you happiest, that's best for you, that no matter how life shakes you, you will make it work. You don't give up on that career path, that relationship, that friendship, that dream. And that's where I am. I am finally ok with not being where I'd planned to be, and I'm excited to see where my dreams take me.
Since I started with a country song lyric, it seems only appropriate that I end with one as well. So, in the words of Darius Rucker, "thank god for all I missed.... cause it led me here to this."
To all of you other fall-equinoxish-first-day-of-libra-ers... Happy Birthday!!