December 1 is my birthday. There are now just 28 days between me and 33. And as is my pattern every year in the weeks leading up to my birthday, I’m reflecting on the year I’ve had, and hoping, dreaming, and planning for the one ahead.
Age 32 was…transformative. The past year has held so many beginnings and endings—some of them have been bittersweet, some have been only sweet, and some have been decidedly bitter. I started 32 about 65% of the way through my master’s degree. I was attending classes and interning 3-4 days a week, and sometimes more. Thinking back on that season of endless deadlines and meetings, papers and tests, early mornings and late nights, I really and truly can’t believe that a. it happened, and b. we survived. Only now, four months removed from school, am I able to really assess the havoc graduate school unleashed on our lives. People have told me since day one of my program: “I don’t know how you do it.” And now, as life is still hectic and full, I look back on that season and wonder for myself, “No, really-how DID you do it?” Well, I had a lot of help, and asked a lot of my husband and daughter. As for the rest, I guess Jesus took the wheel. I don’t miss the exhaustion or the stress, but I sure do miss the people I walked that road alongside. Graduating was the greatest relief I’ve ever felt, but leaving my school family broke my heart a little. Bittersweet.
Through my entire 32nd year, we were trying to have another baby. It took months to get pregnant at all, and we went on to lose three pregnancies in a row. So, so bitter. There is more to say on this, on the lessons grief is teaching me, about letting go, about comparison and joy and contentment. And someday soon, I’ll say it all out loud, but for now, all I can say is that there is sweetness there, too.
I’ve lost friends this year—not in any dramatic fashion, but in the way that people grow and change, so too do their relationships. I’ve done quite a bit of growing and changing this year. Perhaps I’ve “outgrown” some people, and/or some have outgrown ME. The latter is kind of a striking thought, but it’s convicting and it’s true. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing. When any relationship doesn’t work out, or runs its course, it doesn’t have to mean that one person was the good guy and the other bad. It really just means that we aren’t on the same page anymore. The story is beautiful on their page and on mine. We’re just in different places. This acknowledgment brings a bit of anxiety though, because it forces the issue of knowing where you’re at, and owning that particular place in your story, however unfamiliar it may feel. It can be something of a lonely place, too, but there is freedom in knowing that I can bring full authenticity to whatever comes next. Bittersweet, again.
I started a business this year, and I’ll level with you—it’s been a slow start. I’m finding I’m doing battle with every “You didn’t think this through” and “What made you think you would be successful here?” demon that comes my way. No one else says these words, by the way. Just that damned inner dialog that won’t quit. And yet, in true Brené Brown fashion, I am crashing forward into unfamiliar territory, vulnerable and open as I can be. Where I may have once backed down I’m digging in, and it feels good. Sure, it may all completely crash and burn, but my gut tells me it’s going to be okay. So sweet.
I’ll be turning 33 in a dark time for our country and for our world. My daughter is only three, and I still want another child. Part of me wonders if it was a mistake to bring her/them into such a broken place. I fear for her future, for THE future, because so much feels hopeless and out of control. So my goal for next year is to do what I can, and encourage others to do what THEY can, and heal the pain in the world I’ve been trained and blessed to heal. There is still SO. MUCH. BEAUTY. It’s everywhere, if you’re looking for it. For me, part of noticing it will be putting down my phone a little more often. Fine. A lot more often. I’m writing about 33 when it isn’t even guaranteed to me. Like everyone should, I will plan and fight for a better future, but I’m not promised tomorrow. So I will also aim to present, healthy, strong. In this beautiful and messy world, there is so much more to see and to do. I’m here for it. Bitter, and sweet.
Finally, the most valuable thing I’ve learned at age 32 is this: Don’t be too hard on yourself, and don’t be too easy on yourself either. I know there are areas in which I’ve worked too hard, and areas I haven’t worked hard enough. Balancing the two will be an ongoing adventure.
So many dreams for 33. I want to grow a business, a family, and a woman (the woman is me, in case that wasn’t clear.) I want to sing, dance, write, travel, and laugh my ass off- alone and with every person I love. I want to drop all the pretense and show UP in the world that so desperately needs exactly what I (and you) have to give it. And the rest, I suppose, is between 33 and me.