On (being real about) Being 37

On the eve of my birthday, I started writing this blog. I had some reflections on this birthday and I wanted to capture them before the feelings faded. I published it that evening, thinking I would share it later.

But then my actual birthday happened, and this is what the first 2 waking hours of my 37th year *actually* looked like:

-I woke up with yet another zit the size of Vesuvius on my chin. Because 20 years later, I somehow have worse skin than I did at 17 despite many expensive and prescriptive methods to alleviate the issue.

-I did a bootcamp workout that made every joint in my body pop, like little percussive reminders that my knees only have about 15 more functional years.

-I got a text from my bank that I had gone below my low balance threshold. Fabulous. But luckily, because I’m an adult now, I set that threshold pretty high. But also because I’m an adult, I spend about $700 on groceries in a weekend instead of living off of what’s in my freezer. #damnyouSamsClub

-I witnessed a fight between my boys that ended in tears and awkward silences, and resulted in a full day of tension to follow.

-Subsequently, I had a good long cry on the bathroom floor. #adultbirthdayfun

-I stared at a package that arrived from my mother on Tuesday that I still hadn’t opened…like a tiny, passive-aggressive A-bomb sitting at my front door. “What do we say to drama?” “Not today.” #channelingarya

It was now all of 8:30 a.m., and I should have just called it quits right there and gone to work instead of taking the day off. But I hiked up those No-Muffin-Top mom panties and poured the whole grumpy family into the car to go to an amusement park. Because that’s what we do, ladies. We fix things by adding “amusement” (read: “distraction”).

We did take a few pictures that made us *look* like we were having good old fashioned sweaty fun.

In 7 full hours at the park, we estimate that we rode 7 rides. First, we baked in the 95-degree heat and scalding sun. Rode a “kids” ride that nearly made all of us puke. Got in a “short” line (only 15 minute wait time) for one of our favorite water rides, only to wait for over an hour due to mechanical difficulties. Rode go karts and became so competitive that I: 1. Pulled the tendon in the top of my right foot, and 2. Made my kid mad for taking the inside curves and beating the pants off of him. Ate lunch in the car in the parking lot. Decided to go into the water park portion to cool off. Completed half of the “lazy” river (after standing in line on hot pavement for 30 minutes) before being asked to exit the water due to lightning. Waited 1 hour for storm to pass, but it just kept raining harder. Called the day a complete loss and left. Stuffed face with wings and beer. Gained 6 pounds overnight.

This may sound selfish and petty, but I want a birthday do-over. If you’re 36 right now, just stay there.

So for those of you interested in the introspective, positive and empowered post I wrote BEFORE the birthday hijinks on my actual birthday, here it is:

This birthday is not significant to me in anyway. It is not a “milestone” birthday, nor am I celebrating any great achievement. Yet somehow, 37 feels like the verge of something.

37 is officially “late” thirties.

37 is a full 14 or 15 years older than the new graduates I often counsel at work.

37 means high school was officially 20 years ago.

37 is the age women officially become “high risk” if they want to continue procreating.

37 means I’m no longer the youngest manager in the room, like I once was 90% of the time.

But I will tell you…37 feels a whole hell of a lot better than 27.

She’s so much different now. And so much the same.
And P.S. – look at those cute chubby baby legs and cheeks on my little guy!

This week, I went back and read old blogs from 10 years ago. At 27, I was a new, scared mom. I was in a marriage that was already crumbling but I would continue to live in misery for 8 more years. I was beholden to my mother, who was simultaneously supporting my household during my demanding work schedule, and destroying it. I didn’t take care of myself physically, and I wasn’t brave enough to show gratitude for the body that had just carried a human for 9 months.

I was angry, so bitterly angry, at the company that eliminated my position two days before going into labor with my son. At the same time, I was newly employed at a job that siphoned every bit of life I had left from my bones. I was lamenting spending $4,000 on a vehicle, and wondering how I was going to afford formula for my kid. 

I *am* on the verge of something at 37. And it’s not old age.

It’s my second chance at happiness. It’s like my unearthing from a grave I dug myself.

I have so very much to be grateful for. At 37, I am a confident, capable mom who has proven that she can do that job of “mom” all by herself, and that I would be enough for her smart, successful kid. But I am also thankful that I don’t have to do it alone – that I now have a true partner who is a selfless, caring parent. I get the chance to marry that guy and finally have the family I wanted so desperately 10 years ago.

I now live for the struggle that is my body. “At peace” is a strong phrase; I prefer “in progress”. I know there are those who say I should “accept” and “love” my physicality, and yes, that might be right for some people. But I am one who will always strive to improve – my mind, my body, my household, my goals. I will always be putting in the work. Even if I reach an elusive “goal weight” or size, there will always be something else I want to strive for – a faster mile pace, a stronger lift, a more physical adventure, a more balanced life.  I have overhauled what my body can do, and I won’t stop challenging it.

I no longer worry about having a $4,000 car, I own my own beautiful house all by myself, and I am the sole financial provider for my kid (who needs way more expensive stuff than formula these days).

I finally found a career that is perfect for me – development – and I fought to stay in it when another job loss reared its ugly head last year. Not fundraising (I closed that chapter), but personal and professional development. Helping people struggle. Helping people improve. Helping people unlock what they need to know and do to be their own version of successful. Helping companies make progress.

Most of all, at 37, I know who I am. Two years ago, fresh off a divorce and no one to celebrate my birthday weekend with, I bought myself a birthday present. I plunked down $600 and went to see Hamilton in Chicago. You know that song, the one that goes,

“There’s a million things I haven’t done but,

Just you wait, just you wait…

I will never Be Satisfied.”

I am kind and driven and imperfect and sarcastic and courageous and adventurous and resilient and introspective and weird and ambitious and childlike and never satisfied.

I am 37.

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