It’s my birthday. I’ve always loved my birthday but ever since I turned 19, I have hated the idea of getting older. I don’t know why the number has bothered me so much. Up until a week ago I was saying that 30 just sounded so old. But I’ve changed my mind. Partly because a lot of my friends, all of my siblings and most of my cousins are in their forties (it helps a girl stay young), but mostly because of something I read the other day and everything it made me think about.
A memory came up on Facebook (as they do every day when you subscribe to the ‘on this day’ function). 10 years ago, I wrote that I was not looking forward to my birthday because turning 20 meant “a downward spiral into oblivion.” Initially I read it and thought that my 19-year-old self was quite the dramatic. As I thought about it more I realized that, while dramatic, she was also kind of right. While I didn’t make it all the way to oblivion, I definitely hit the bottom – spine first.
My twenties saw a lot of change. My life changed with each child that I had – and the one that I lost. It changed with the friendships that dwindled and each new one that was created. My marriage altered course because of more things than I can list but the seasons of depression and anxiety, the loss of loved ones, the stress of school and my husband’s heart condition that was quickly diagnosed and treated are the ones that come to mind. It was a decade full of ups and downs (like most of them are) and with just over one year left, there was that fateful accident.
When I was injured, one of my good friends from high school came to visit me and in my card she had written the quote I used in my grade 12 yearbook. I had completely forgotten about it and reading it again brought tears to my eyes. When we were cleaning out our storage room a few weeks ago I came across my yearbook and read it again. And again, there were tears in my eyes.
“Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.
-William Jennings Bryant
I let my twenties happen to me. I didn’t put a huge amount of effort into how I wanted my life to look. I was of the mindset that we would just get to wherever it was we needed to be. I had a very negative outlook most of the time and felt sorry for myself far more often than I like to admit because a lot of the time it was incredibly unjustified. I chose to make excuses for myself and complain about things I had the power to change. I was waiting.
I refuse to let my thirties happen to me. I will put in the effort required to shape our life in the way that we want. We will not just get where we need to be (that is apparently only in fairy tales) – so, we will work for it. I want to have a positive outlook and I will do my best to only feel sorry for myself when it is undoubtedly justified (and even then I’ll try to keep it short). I will not complain about the things I have the power to change – I may not change them, but if I don’t, that is my burden to bear. I will choose to define my life by rising above the obstacles that life hits me with by chance and still move forward.
At 19 years old I had everything going for me and I was blind to it. My outlook for the next decade was uninviting and immature. As I write this at 29 years and 364 days old I am a very different person. I have lost plenty; I have lost things that I miss every single day. However, I refuse to be the woman who thinks it’s just downhill from here. Because when I think of the quote I used in my yearbook in grade 12 and those words I wrote on Facebook at the age of 19, I can only think that it was all a bit predictive; as though the quote was my warning and I responded with a Facebook post that decided the fate of my third decade on this earth; I would believe in chance and I would wait. In my fourth decade, I will make the choices that mold my fate and work to achieve the things I want.
I am entering my thirties and bringing all of the good stuff with me from the last decade. I am leaving as much of the negative baggage where it belongs (in May 2007- May 2017). The wheelchair will have to tag along I suppose.
I think we are always looking for a fresh start – whether it is a new decade, a new year or just another Monday. However I think sometimes we forget to bring the lessons we’ve learned along the way, with us into those new adventures. I’m going to work hard at remembering where I’ve been while venturing into my fresh start. I will no longer complain about getting old because every day I wake up, there are so many people who don’t.
My twenties may have taken me down (thanks 19 year old me) but my thirties will be about continuing the climb back up. Plus, it’s hard to have a bad attitude when your birthday lands on a Friday!