I turned 35 this week, much to my dismay and utter protest. If I had gotten my way, you'd have found me under my covers on Wednesday morning, sobbing, eating my way through a box of unsuspecting donuts. God was playing a cruel, cruel joke on me, yet most of those people around me couldn't understand my issue. It's just a number, they said. It's not everything, they whined. Age is a state of mind. Blah, blah freakin' blah! And might I add, bite me? Until you've had a birthday that makes you feel this way, then you have no idea what this feels like.
You see, when you're 18, graduating from high school, heading off across the country to college (or down the street, in my case), you set goals for your life. And eventually, these goals become expectations. By the time I was 25, I wanted to be graduated from college and on my way in a successful career. I wanted to own my own car and at least have the prospect of owning a home. By the time I was 30, I wanted to have the husband, the 2.5 kids, and the successful career as a teacher. And by the time I was 35, I wanted to have that nest egg of financial security and a sense of freedom to go and do as I'd like. Somehow, things haven't gone exactly as I'd planned.
If any of you truly know me, or have read these posts, you know I'm a planner. I'm by the book. Type A.
I'm a bowl stacker.
So to know that I'm really at the start of my career and still don't know what I want to do, to know that I am nowhere near close to owning my own home, and to realize that I might not ever be married scares the bejesus out of me. When you're 35, you're supposed to have things figured out. That's the great expectation. And I expected to have most everything figured out and secured down enough to face whatever "what if" that came into my life. God, somehow, had a different plan.
I know that we don't always become what we set out to be. And I know that life has twists and turns that are supposed to make experiences that we'll treasure for the rest of our lives. I know all this. I get it. And I believe this. I also believe that you end up in places, experiencing things that you are meant to be experiencing, because it will ultimately make you who you were intended to be all along.
Turning 35 was almost a representation of my failures in life. Failures, you say? What failures, Single Girl? Do you not have a roof over your head? Do you not own your car? Do you not have friends and family who love you? Do you not have a wonderful little girl who adores you? Yeah. I do. And right about now, you want to smack me for being unappreciative of all the gifts I've been given. Gifts that money can't buy. But to me, I received these gifts because of my failures. My failed marriage produced my daughter. And living without owning a car for so long taught me the value of it. And renting only allows me to dream beyond my wildest dreams of the day I'll own a home with a plot of land I can till into a Better Homes and Gardens photographic spread. And being perpetually single only teaches me that having a partner by your side who loves and cares for you is such a rare commodity that should never, ever be taken for granted.
Turning 35 meant having to face those failures and accept them as my life. It meant taking those great expectations that I had for myself and realizing that those expectations were only fantasy, brought on by too many airings of Cinderella. Glass slippers are uncomfortable and impractical anyhow. Regular stillettos are hard enough. But to me, my great expectation is that the curtain at the end of my life would close with a happily ever after ending. And so far, on the surface, none of these dreams have come true according to my timeline. This was my issue.
Ever see that movie Under the Tuscan Sun? In it, a divorcee purchases a Tuscan villa on a whim just after her divorce and cathartically remodels it, while remodeling herself. She has a tiny breakdown mid-movie where she verbalizes her dreams of having a family, cooking for her family, and having a wedding at this home. In the end, her dreams come true, just not at a literal level. Her family is a different family, made up of a mishmosh of friends and neighbors. A wedding takes place, but it just wasn't hers. In the end, she gets her wish. Well, if I look closely, I have had my great expectations come true.
I have my family. They are a mixed dozen of friends and blood relatives, but nonetheless, they are mine. And while I don't own a home, it will eventually come to me. As for my career, it's been eight years in the making and it's going strong. So while I had great expectations for my birthday, the day was a quiet celebration of failures that turned into successes. I spent the day refurbishing my balcony into a tiny oasis where I can now sit and enjoy the warm sun and cool breeze, and write this post.
Turning 35 has allowed me to accept these successes and move on with my life. I don't know what will happen and I have loose goals, but I'll spend the next 35 enjoying whatever comes my way. This is my greatest expectation.