Not to say that I’m fretting over this number or birthdays in general. I’ve already lived longer than I expected to and known more joy than I ever allowed myself to hope for. So why am I feeling ambivalent about this year’s marker of my birth?
Ordinarily the entire month of February is a cacophony of self-congratulation. I’m a firm believer in asking for what you want and I ALWAYS ask for people to celebrate with me. Most people (in the North) think of February with dread and lethargy. I think of Valentines Day and Mardi Gras and a three-day weekend I like to call “Christine’s Birthday Gift from the Government.” (I was President once, you know.)
Plus, it’s a mini-month. It’s over before you know it.
I’ve felt 38 since my hub’s birthday in September so there won’t be anything to remembering my new age. I’ve been saying it for months by accident. And this year is undoubtedly going to be my best since my 35th. I know this truth in my soul and am manifesting it all over the place.
When I was 35, I became a mom. The rollercoaster joy of motherhood is something I never expected to experience. It is a largely unacclaimed role but undoubtedly the most substantial one I’ll ever earn, undiminished by the volume of peers in the field. Whatever my professional aspirations, this windfall of importance and comedy and humility has made me richer than I ever thought possible.
Yet, I thought, in my hubris youth, that I’d have more to show by this point, that I’d have accomplished something tangible and laudable. I expected my achievements to be showy, enviable, and unmatched. And like any self-respecting-perfectionist-first-born, NOT having ‘reached my potential’ makes me want to wad up the sketch of my life and toss it in the bin.
Just when I get to that point of self-loathing agony, mourning for my lost chances and unruddered choices, my wise old-soul of a husband discusses starting points.
I feel like I often write about life and love ‘not being a competition.’ And maybe I need the reminder as much as I need to share my belief. Life, for sure, cannot be competitive because no one shares the same starting line. We aren’t given the same legs to run on. We aren’t given the same course to navigate. Looking at friends (or foes) with more or less of anything we desire and feeling failure is tragically flawed logic.
A surprising source of perspective came from a former manager, who while we worked together almost drove me to homicide, but since has become less a tyrannical figure and more of a sympathetic one. Indeed, she observed my impolitic professional life with dispassion saying that I still had time to make the ascent to real leadership and influence. It was one of the most hopeful things I had ever heard and from such a pragmatist, I couldn’t justly dismiss it.
In fact, at 38, I am not quite middle-aged. The lifetimes I packed into the last two decades were, in fact, only warm-up acts. Nancy Pelosi won her first elected seat to the House at 47 and became the first female Speaker at 66. Arianna Huffington launched her magnum opus, Huffington Post, at fifty-five. The youngest female CEO in the Fortune 500 is 47.
I’ve still got time.
And right now, I’ve got a birthday to plan.