Today is my 39th birthday.
My friend, Ada, recently pointed out that I spent most of my “ideal age” in a global pandemic. In high school, our group of friends like to debate endlessly about our respective ideal ages. Hans advocated for 32. When his ideal age came and went, I asked him what he thought about it. He muttered something about the Bay Area rental market being what it is. Somehow, he never anticipated being his ideal age and having to share a 1-bedroom apartment with a roommate (thanks living-room conversions).
In terms of my deciding on 38, my teenage reasoning went something like this. By 38, you are established in your career. By 38, you have kids but no longer have to change diapers. At 38, you are still considered young by most measures. Teenage me wasn’t completely off base. I am more fulfilled in my career now than I have ever been. However, I still change diapers. As for being young, my teenage self had yet to learn that feeling a certain age has less to do with a specific number and more to do with the relative weight of one’s responsibilities.
What did I learn from spending my ideal age amid a global pandemic? In no particular order…
- Value of community. So, I have lived in intentional communities and I have always had the privilege of being part of church communities and wider social networks. This was the first year where I was “forced” to create community in my neighborhood, with the same neighbors whose names I hadn’t previously learned. Those friendly interactions and shared experiences were such a source of grace throughout this year. I wrote a whole blog post about this back in October.
- I like whiskey. Like many others, I spent too much of those early pandemic weeks overindulging and came to truly enjoy whiskey’s slow burn. Fortunately, I recognized that this was not the most helpful coping mechanism and changed course. To all the parents who work while simultaneously having your children at home with you, battling digital learning and everything else, let’s just acknowledge that it is really frickin’ hard. Actually, it’s really frickin’ hard no matter what your life circumstances are. If you enjoy the occasional cocktail or glass of wine, so be it…just don’t lose sight of the fact that it is no substitute for human interaction.
- Life is short. I feel like I learn this one time and time and again. Or, I know it cognitively but not emotionally. So, I then have to relearn it again. I am hoping that the pandemic will finally make it stick. There is no better time to pick up the hobby that you’ve wanted to “find time” to do. There is no better time to go on that dream vacation or that spiritual retreat. There is no such thing as the perfect time. Let’s not put off the now…
- Writing is my coping mechanism. It’s funny because it always has been. There are baskets of old journals tucked away in my bookshelves. Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I was writing short stories and entering essay contests. Somehow, adulting got in the way and I let creative writing slip out of my routine. After the boys were born, I started thinking about creating a blog…wanting something that was entirely my own…something that I wouldn’t have to “share” with Richard or the boys. COVID and my desire to process the ever-changing world pushed me thoroughly from the realm of thinking into doing. #Grateful
- Friends deserve to know that they loved. Why is it socially acceptable to throw the “l-word” down with our family members and not our friends? Like seriously, there are several family members that I don’t particularly like but still end phone calls with the breezy, “I love you.” This is a massive social discrepancy. Occasionally in the past, I have let “love” slip from my lips with close girlfriends. Yet, this was the first year where I made the intentional decision to use the word consistently when I genuinely love the person. Guess what? It has not been awkward, not even once.
Your turn. Any insights from your pandemic year? Or, any tips for enjoying the last year of my 30’s?