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I turned 39 yesterday. It’s not really a milestone birthday. Not like 18 or 21 or 30 or 40. It’s a non-event, really.
But it kind of feels like an event. Or a precipice.
39 is limbo. That last, nebulous year between my 30s and my 40s. And, like…I’m okay with it, I think? I’m not having a mid-life crisis or anything. If anything, this feels more like a mid-life senior prom. Suddenly I have a little time and energy to spend on getting pretty and smiling and celebrating everything I’ve done, while there are still a comforting number of sleeps before the next Big Thing begins.
But the next Big Thing is looming. And just like at my real senior prom…I find myself getting a little misty. And a little nervous.
This is thirty-nine.
I’m exactly where I wanted to be…but I don’t know where I’m going.
I trained for a career, but that was a goal that always shifted for me. What I really wanted, all my life, was a family, and a career that wouldn’t take me away from that family.
I thought teaching was going to be that career for me. Turns out, I’m not nearly as good at that as I thought I’d be. (Dear teachers: you are superheroes, seriously. Thank you for all that you do.) I’ve been a SAHM for a decade and I love it.
But my children are getting older now, and more independent. Someday soon, I’m going to have kids in high school, and college. I won’t be packing school lunches anymore, or driving carpools, or singing baby shark for the hundred-and-tenth time. And while that’s wonderful and natural and exciting…somehow, I never saw it coming. I have had a view of adulthood in my head since I was a little girl. I knew exactly where I wanted to be when I reached my 30s, and I spent my 30s smack dab in the middle of that vision. But I’m just now coming to realize that I never gave any thought to what was going to happen after.
I am 39 years old, and suddenly I have to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life. I’m heading into my 40s without a destination in mind and without a road map. Which is probably why…
I don’t want any more babies…but I want more babies.
My youngest is 7. I literally JUST–as in, last week–hit the magical moment where, for the first time in thirteen years, the only butt I have to wipe is my own. Every person in my house eats from the same sized cutlery. I’ve donated all the baby clothes. There is no longer a child-sized potty in my bathroom. Everyone sleeps in their own beds. I don’t have a stroller, a pack and play or a diaper genie. I’ve finally lost the last pound of baby weight, and for the first time, I’m not planning to put it back on in the form of another baby. The jeans I buy today might still fit me in five years. And yet…
I still take a pregnancy test every time my period is so much as ten seconds late. And while I always breathe a sigh of relief when it comes back negative…there’s still a little thrill of excitement while I watch it develop. There’s always a tiny, irrational, but truly sincere pang of disappointment when the stark white test is followed by the inevitable trickle of blood, so aptly named a “period.” It punctuates the decision we’ve made, and keep making, every month, stark and final:
It isn’t going to happen. Ever again.
I don’t really want to do it all again, I don’t think. I don’t want another baby. But that was the beginning of this chapter in my life, and it’s my favorite chapter. The middle and the end have been amazing, too. In fact, I’m kind of loving the end. I like it so much I wish it would last forever. I don’t want to to back…but going back would be a lot less scary than going forward. Going back would mean that, a decade from now, I get to do this part again. That’s all I want. I want to be right where I am, just a little longer. I’m not ready to turn that last page. But at least I know that…
Who I am today is who I want to be.
I’ve done a surprising amount of growing up in the past decade, considering I was supposed to have already been “grown up” at the beginning of it. I’ve rediscovered my passions – for art, for writing, for good clean fun – and I keep finding new ways to express them. I’ve found and embraced the things I’m truly good at, and I’ve developed the confidence to share my gifts boldly, and often, and without apology. I’ve also come to understand that there are things that I outright suck at and will always suck at–and I’ve accepted that sucking at them doesn’t mean I don’t have to do them.
I’ve learned to forgive myself. I’ve learned to love myself. I’ve learned to take pride in my talents, and to embrace my imperfections without shame. I’ve learned that when one person shines, everyone sparkles. I’ve learned thankfulness for the light of others, even when that light is so dazzling my own pales by comparison. Especially then.
I know who I am, I like who I am, and I don’t worry about losing sight of that anymore. Which is why…
The friends I have now, and the friends I make from here forward, will be my friends for life.
If someone resonates with me, that’s my true self resonating with their true self. I know who I am and that makes me appreciate who YOU are that much more. I’m better at finding common ground than I used to be, and common ground is high ground: it almost always sits safely above the bullshit.
Plus, I’ve now mostly-raised three kids. That experience has given me two vitally important gifts: a high tolerance for bullshit, and the ability to understand and appreciate the people I love even when they behave like like assholes.
No, really. Assholery can be either a developmental stage or an unfortunate mood. It is not a state of being.
If I see you, I really see you. If I love you, I will always love you. I GET people now, and I feel like they get me. And that makes friendships so much easier.
I’m not going to accomplish anything spectacular before I’m 40, and that’s okay.
There is nothing I started in my 30s that will be finished by the time I’m 40. My novel will not be published before I’m 40. Hell, I probably won’t even finish my first round of revisions before I’m 40. I won’t achieve any prestigious title in my chosen field, because I haven’t even chosen a field. Whatever my great contribution to humanity is going to be (other than the three additional humans – you’re welcome, humanity!), it’s not going to happen in the next 364 days. It’s just not. And I’m really cool with that.
I’ve been busy. It’s been worthwhile. And whatever I decide to do next, I refuse to look at 40 as a deadline for it.
It’s a starting line.
I’m just getting started.
These are my power years. I’m the person I’ve always wanted to be. I’m WHERE I’ve always wanted to be. I have confidence, and an amazing family, and security, and love, and friendship. Whether I saw this moment coming or not, I’m not about to waste it.
It’s time to pick a new dream. I’m not sure yet what that’s going to be. But whatever it is, I’m going to aim high this time. And I’m going to get there. I know what I’m capable of now. I’m primed and ready.
So, yeah. Okay.
This is thirty-nine.
Let’s rock it.