one more candle

It’s my birthday tomorrow.

Ever since I turned 30 a few years ago, I’ve had a hard time with birthdays. Maybe it’s just the very real fact that after you hit a certain age, you start to realize how much of your life you’ve already lived, and you get that “back 9” syndrome Robert Downey Jr. talks about. But for me, birthdays past 30 are continual reminders of the fact I’m not where I want to be or where I thought I’d be at this point in my life, professionally and personally. It’s hard to shake that mindset, to look forward to another year when you’re so focused on what your age means.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my 20’s, about mistakes I made because I was young, and stupid, and listened to the wrong people, and had different priorities. I think about if I would feel different because had I not made certain decisions, I would be where I always wanted to be. On the other hand, I’m astute enough to realize if I had taken that path, there’s a chance I wouldn’t have the friends I currently have. I wouldn’t have gotten a chance to work at the company of my dreams, doing a job I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do. I probably wouldn’t be in my current career. I might not have gone to grad school. I probably wouldn’t have gotten into comics as much as I did, and comics not only saved my life, but they also brought amazing, inspirational people into my world.

The thing is, it’s hard to focus on the road less traveled when all you can see in front of you is the one that is now defining your life. Maybe it’s because I know people who are younger, who have already gotten their lives together, and it makes me feel like moving at a slower pace is demeaning. Maybe it’s because I know people who ARE my age who have the things I desperately want, and I wonder if and where I went wrong.

This was an up and down year. There were extreme highs and extreme lows; I had a lot of positive opportunities and moments but I also had a lot of setbacks. I’ve been reflecting recently, about the steps I’ve taken to improve my life and mental health, the things I can be proud of and the things I could have done differently. In my Passion Planner, I purposefully designated today as “self care” with an attempt to relax and enjoy the day without being upset or depressed that tomorrow will see me another year older, and another year closer to an age that’s pretty significant.

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A few years ago, Kelly Sue answered a question about life and balance on her blog. I bookmarked it at the time, and still look at it today when I need to be reminded of the fact that you don’t have to be successful at 20 to have a good life. Or even successful at 30. Age doesn’t matter. Drive and motivation does. Being happy with yourself does.

It’s my birthday tomorrow, and I’m closer to having the things I want, but not close enough that I can feel optimistic that turning another year older will bring enough good things that will make me feel like I’m on the right track. But this year, I’ve had experiences, and I’ve learned. I’m older. I’m wiser. I have amazing people in my life who I am proud and thankful to call friends, who I love dearly, who help me every single day just by having my back in the smallest of ways. I have a family that is big on tough love, but they catch me when I fall, and lately, I really, really have fallen.

In the words of Kelly Sue, I’m doing the best I can, figuring it out as I go. And that has to count for something.

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