Today has been my last day as a 35-year-old. And I have mixed feelings about it.
I've never been big on birthdays, at least not in adulthood. I don't get super excited for my "big day" or make big plans to celebrate unless someone else insists. Though I'll gladly accept cake and/or gifts should anyone find it absolutely necessary to celebrate me, to me it's usually just another day.
However, turning 35 last year didn't feel like "just another day." Honestly, it was really tough for me. It seemed like a turning point in adulthood. Like, at 35, I'm solidly in this adult thing. The learning curve of "young adulthood" is over, and I'm out of excuses. If I can't get life figured out by now, the problem is me. I was spending a lot of energy comparing myself to other people my age---their careers, their families, their finances, their social lives (at least how I perceived it all)---and I felt like I was way behind. To be completely honest, 35 also felt kind of like a point of no return for me, a very single woman who might like to have kids one day, and my biological clock. Yes, I realize that it was all maybe a little irrational (we've met, right?), but for whatever reason, I really struggled with my birthday last year. I definitely had no idea that I would be here 365 days later, sad to leave 35 behind.
Recently I showed up for a Wednesday night church service not realizing that there would be icebreakers involved. Y'all, I don't do networking, and I don't do icebreakers. People know this. In fact, when our pastor started explaining the activity, one of my friends (who couldn't even see my face, mind you), said, "Liz is HATING this right now." She was right. If I could have escaped the chapel unnoticed, I definitely would have snuck out. But alas, there I was, with a sheet of icebreaker questions, instructed to find a partner I don't know well and talk about myself. So I did it. And it was insightful. So FINE...score one for Pastor Greg and his dumb icebreakers.
When we paired up for the first round, one of the questions my partner asked was, "If you could stay any age forever, what age would that be?" I thought about it for a minute before giving an answer that surprised me, even though I was absolutely sure about it: "35 has been a really good age for me. I think I could stay this age forever and be happy."
Despite the negative feelings I had at the beginning of the year, 35 truly has been great. Not always easy. Not always happy. But a wonderful year of growth, challenge, self-love, and maybe even some healing. If this last year were a song, it would be "This is Me" from The Greatest Showman. On repeat. And progressively louder each time.
For all the lessons I learned, I say thank you, 35.
Thank you for teaching me that a leap of faith can be as rewarding as it is scary and that spreading my wings to fly is one of the most empowering things I could ever do.
Thank you for teaching me the freedom of being myself---truly, imperfectly, and unapologetically.
Thank you for teaching me to stop resenting my body and instead to embrace it, to love it, and to appreciate all it does for me.
Thank you for teaching me the value of balance and consistency, even in the small things, because the small things can make a huge difference.
Thank you for teaching me to embrace the power of community and to accept that support from people around me is life-giving.
Most of all, thank you for teaching me to pause and ask, "What if?" What if the path I've imagined for my life isn't my path at all? What if there is something different for me if I only learn to look for it? What if I open myself to new things, new people, and new ideas? What if I slow down for a just a minute and see things from a different perspective? What if I live a life I love simply for me and no one else? What if?
Thank you, 35. I'm sad to see you go.
But the time has come to say hello to a new year and all the new adventures that await. I just hope 36 is ready for me.