This year I celebrated my 33rd birthday. I've heard it said that 30 is the new 20, but I think that misconception was started by a bunch of 30-somethings having a pre-mid-life crisis. I've also heard it said that your 33rd year is supposed to be one of the best years of all, so I asked a bunch of my friends to send me some words of wisdom, pulled my Cricket down from my top closet shelf, made 33's and then forced my friends to take pictures holding them at my birthday dinner party. If 33 is going to be so great, I want to immortalize all 365 days of 33 year old bliss.
I started doing a lot of reflecting on my life as I approached my birthday this year. I spent my 20's having babies. As those babies grew, I grew right along with them. I look back on those years now and hardly recognize the child/'woman I was. If there was a mistake to be made as I walked down that road of my life, I made it. I was lucky enough to have good friends to help me pick myself up when I fell. And so by the skin of my teeth, I made it through my 20's.
"Nobody Puts Baby In A Corner"-Johnny Castle
With this new decade came the notion of mortality, something that had previously been missing from my life. I no longer felt that I could conquer the world; no longer thought there was no obstacle too big. Basically my 20's had TKO'd me while I had paused to take a breath. During that time, I found myself doubting ME. While I had been busy changing diapers and trying to function on major sleep deprivation, I had let other people shape me and for some crazy reason, I adapted their attitude towards me and I became someone I didn't want to be. I don't know why I am saying, "their", I am talking about one specific person. One person that had the power to knock me down, literally and figuratively. One person who tore my self-esteem to shreds and then threw it in my face and made me believe that I had no self worth and could never make it through life without him. I let him hold my destiny in his hands and I lived in fear that I would never be free of him. I cooked his meals, cleaned his house, gave birth to his children; and I died a little each day until I no could no longer recognize myself.
"Don't Compromise Yourself, You Are All You've Got"-Janis Joplin
Until one day I woke up, with a certainty that I had not previously possessed,and knew that if I didn't walk out of that relationship that minute, I would not make it out alive. As scary as it was, I walked. Actually I packed up all of his shit and told him to get the hell out. Somewhere inside of me there resided one last drop of courage. I found that one last bit of fearlessness that he had not sucked out of me and used it like a rosary to ward off his evil spirit.
I started to rebuild myself. It was a slow process. I cried myself to sleep when I could barely scrape up enough money to buy diapers between pay days and when I had to borrow money from my Mom to cover my rent. I cried myself to sleep because, what if he was right? What if no one would ever love me? But one day, I cried for joy. I cried because I had made the best decision of my life. I cried because I would never have to listen to him tell me I wasn't good enough again. I cried because I was free to make my own decisions. I was free to leave toys scattered all over the living room and dirty dishes in the sink. I could let the laundry pile up as high as I wanted. I could be ME again, have my own opinions, and do the things I wanted to do.
That was the day that I started to heal. Every day I felt a little better, a little more sure of myself. I got a promotion at work. I could finally pay my bills and even had a little extra money at the end of the month. As time went on, I was able to look life in the eye and say, "Bring it, bitch!"and I knew that the old ME had finally returned.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” -Mary Oliver
With some lessons learned under my belt, I drifted towards 30 with the realization that I actually liked myself. What an amazing feeling! Sure there are people smarter and better looking and richer, but guess what? I don't care. I'm not exactly Susie Homemaker,(sometimes we eat cereal for dinner), I cuss like a sailor, and there are probably a million other things I could find wrong with myself. But I don't want to look. And I won't look. If other people want to find fault in me then I will be happy to give them the one finger salute.
Every day is a new gift waiting to be opened. As hard as things have been in my past, I am thankful for the experiences. They have shaped me into the woman I am today.
What does 33 have in store for me? I don't know. But whatever it is, I'm ready. And even if it isn't the best year of my life, I'm OK with that too.