Tomorrow is my birthday. I'm turning 34 this year. Kind of crazy, because I don't usually feel that old. I don't really know what age I "feel." I'm also not sure that I know what any age feels like anyway, so I guess it's moot to even try to figure that out.
So because of my birthday, I've been doing some heavy introspection recently, and I'm determined to make some changes in my life, kind of as a birthday present to myself. What's really weird, though, is that the changes that I want to make in my life as a birthday present, I'm thinking of them as a 35th birthday present. Things I'd like to be in place in my life by the time I'm 35.
When I was a young'un and I sat down to make the beautiful life plan that would be the rest of my life, it went like this... Mister and I would graduate college at 22, get married at 23/24, have our first baby about a year later, keep having some more babies until we had 3-5 babies and we were about 34. Somewhere in there we would buy the perfect Victorian house, drive fabulous cars..... blah, blah, blah.
Here's what happened from that list. Mister and I graduated college at 22. We did eventually get married, of course, but we were 26! So already starting off I was mad because we were about 2 years "late" on the master plan. Then a year later, we started TTC and here we are now.
This is important for my birthday, of course, because from the time that I was 26-29, I told myself that it'd be OK, I could still meet my goals if we could just have one baby by the time I turned 30. Have one baby and buy a house. Any house, I didn't really care.
Well, 30 came, childless and renting. (31, 32, and 33 have also come childless and renting, for that matter, but I'm really in a different place about that now.) I decided that I didn't want to walk around thinking of myself as a failure, so I gave myself a few more years to meet those goals. I said that probably when I was 35, we'd have bought a house and had babies, and definitely by 40.
Of course, here comes 35. In 366 short days, I'll be 35. And part of my heavy introspection is that I'm holding myself to these goals that are not actually goals. I have absolutely no control over when we'll have a baby. Maybe by the time I'm 35, maybe not. Maybe we'll have bought a house by then, but maybe not.
Aside from these 2 unmet non-goals, I have an awesome life. I simply can't justify walking around this awesome life feeling like I've let myself down. Because I haven't let myself down at all. We have (almost) everything we want, we travel, we eat out, we stay out late, we want for nothing. Many people in the world would look at my life and think I'm living a dream life. And in some ways, I definitely am.
So for my 35th birthday, I decided that I needed different goals. I am not going to have the goal that "maybe by next year we'll have a baby and we'll own our own house." Because yeah, maybe we will. But maybe we won't, and that'll be OK too. My focus for my 34th year will be to get my life in order for turning 35. Baby or no baby, house or no house. So for one year, I will do these things that are actually goals. These are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound goals. Not just "I hope I have a baby by then" goals.
Here are the gifts that I will give myself by the time I'm 35:
1) (Not so much measurable or time-bound, this one is just a SAR goal, I guess.) Goal #1 - Lay off. Really, back off and give myself some slack. I am absolutely not a failure in my life for not having had children. Most people wouldn't look at me and think of me that way, so I'm going to try to stop too. I'm compassionate and have great empathy for others, now it's time to apply some of that to myself.
2) Give up soda. I drink way too much. I'm concerned about the health, environmental, and philosophical impact of all the artificial sweetners, caffeine, plastic bottles, chemicals and even the financial cost of it all. I'm going back to water, wine, beer, and iced tea. Maybe lemonade sometimes too, if I feel like it. But as much as I love soda, I think it's doing me more harm than good. I may definitely need the entire year for this goal, but that's all right. I'll get there. I'm not buying any soda after my 34th birthday. I'll still drink whatever is already in the house, but I will not supply myself with anymore soda after October 28.
3) Exercising at least 3 times a week. A few weeks ago, I walked 5 miles every day, which is drastic, I know. I went from 0 miles a day to 5, and I think that it would be an unrealistic, unattainable goal to say that I'll walk 5 miles a day 5x a week. So I'm going to leave it a little more attainable and realistic and say that I will do some form of exercise at least 3 times a week for the next year.
4) Read at least 1 book a month. I love to read, but TV and the internet compete better for my attention. I'm embarrassed to think that if someone asked me, "What have you read recently?" it would become another famous gotcha. "What have you read recently?" isn't a trick question, as we've all heard, and if people in public life will be the object of scorn and ridicule for not reading, then I'd better hold myself to at least that lowest bar of conversation. Because seriously, if I went on a job interview and the principal asked me that, I'd stutter and freeze on that one. Unless Martha Stewart's Cupcakes cookbook counts, which I kind of don't think it does.
That's it. 4 short goals. I'm starting them on my 34th birthday hoping they'll be habits by the time I'm 35. Cut myself some slack, give up soda, exercise and read. I think I can do it. It's my own personal New Year, so why not throw some resolutions in there. And, of course, if sometime along the path of being 34 years old, I happen to have a baby or buy a house, I'm open to those as well.
However, the best news of all is that having just read Martha Stewart's Cupcakes cookbook, I have some awesome ideas for what birthday cake I should have...