I am on the verge of turning 37. While it’s not a milestone birthday like 40, it holds weight in my mind as an undeniably adult age. It’s an age where I feel I should be in full stride adulthood with a wisdom and confidence I assumed my own parents possessed at this age, not having any real clue what they talked about after we kids were in bed. Of course, I know more now than at 7, 17, or even 27, but am I more confident, self-assured, or happier than I was at 17? Have the past 20 years built me up the way I’d hoped and predicted? I know over the last two decades that very few things, if any, went according to my plan.
I didn’t anticipate quitting my top college after only 4 days on site, having my lifelong best friend drop me for no obvious reason, or move out west for my master’s degree. I didn’t anticipate having a baby right after marrying (or settling for the wrong guy, for that matter) or that I’d divorce at 31 only to remarry at 33. I didn’t anticipate having a second child or being the primary earner while my husband works freelance and cares for our son.
Perhaps naively, I didn’t expect adulthood to be so laden with exhausting responsibilities, obligations, and basic operations to keep our household humming. When most days are packed with work stress, how to pay all the bills, a whining baby, floors to sweep, and more loads of laundry to do, it’s clear why I don’t feel happier or more certain I’ve done “it” right. All the fun and independence I’d hoped for adulthood gets buried in the mundane to-do’s. It leaves me questioning why, is it worth it, how did I get here?
I don’t want to let 36 turn to 37 turn to 40 to 50 only to have a middling middle-aged existence that feels like a sweeping letdown to my child and adolescent dreams. I am determined to rekindle the confidence, enthusiasm, and curiosity I had at 17. I plan to glean as much joy as I can from each day, whether it’s a crossword puzzle at lunch, a round of Boggle after dinner, or squeezing in a TED talk video during work. I received a lovely new pair of ice skates for Christmas to pair with the roller skates I got last Mother’s Day. I’m planning to dedicate time to old-fashioned fun activities that bring a smile to my face just thinking about them. I will hold more walking meetings, sneak sun salutations into work breaks, sip more tea, play more scrabble, and read more books and interesting articles. I will practice kindness, not criticism and remind myself that the worrying will get me nowhere. I will light more candles, soak in more baths, snuggle more, and laugh more. I will continue to learn and to listen, challenging my set thinking, biases, and habits to grow into a better human.
Some people might glaze right over age 37. Not me. I’m going to own this year as 365 opportunities for more goodness and abundance, as the bridge between nostalgia and joyful new beginnings.