39 years, 364 days….

Today is my last day to be 39 years old.  Tomorrow I will be 40 (or 30-10 as some young children like to say).

Many people don’t make it to 40.  Hundreds of thousands of people in my 40 years have died either due to starvation, genocide, abuse, neglect, violence, disease or catastrophe.  Others may make it to 40, but are damaged beyond repair – physically, emotionally or psychologically because of atrocities that one cannot bear to mention, let alone think about.  And still others are alive by the biological definition of the word – but they aren’t living.  They are simply existing, going through the motions of their lives and never truly connecting or giving of themselves.

And then there are those who truly LIVE.  You’ve seen them – people who embrace life with an unbridled passion and gusto that appears to be unquenched.  Some of these folks are outwardly exuberant, while others exhibit a quiet yet relentless curiosity that cannot be satisfied no matter how many books they read, how many people they meet or how many countries to which they travel. 

I’m not sure where I fall.  I am confident that some would categorize me as exuberant – but merely having energy doesn’t mean that I am truly living.  Nor does it mean that I’m not.  What I do know is that I’ve learned a lot in my first 40 years of life – and that both my good and bad experiences have forged me into the woman I am today. 

  • My challenges coming from a divorced home helped develop my independence, as well as a fundamental mistrust of relationships resulting in a lot of pain.  But these experiences also helped me figure out my own issues (along with the help of a fine counselor or two), and eventually recognize a true partner when our paths finally crossed.
  • My foray into all sorts of different activities (pageants, basketball, debutante, clarinet, musical theater, dance, singing (including Opera), science, running, mathematics, writing and advocacy) helped satisfy my curious nature, but it also reinforced a certain level of impatience I have when I don’t master something quickly. 
  • My determination and assertiveness have allowed me to advocate for those not as fortunate as myself, but I’ve also been selfish in that I’ve been looking more inward than out – something that I need to put back into balance to fully develop a giving spirit. 
  • I recognize the need for self-care, but I have significant challenges practicing it. 
  • My exposure to religion at a young age helped me garner an appreciation of spirituality – but it wasn’t until very recently that I realized it wasn’t an external spiritual construct I needed; rather, it was one from within. 

All of these situations, interactions and lessons have helped me become me.  Would I like to turn back time and be 25 again?  No way.  I remember what I was like at 25 – confused, weak, scared and not knowing a thing about what I truly wanted.  I am no longer that woman – but she will forever be a part of me.  Her lesson to me is one of true triumph over fear and doubt.  It was through both the harsh and subtle lessons learned in my 20s and early 30s that I finally found my path.

 As such, I’ll take the hurt mixed with laughter, the pain sprinkled with silliness and the thousands of miles I have traveled thus far on my own developmental journey.  I will wear each wrinkle I have earned with pride. I know I can do more.  I am convinced I can do better.  But my life lessons over the past 39 years and 364 days have reinforced that I will never stop growing, learning, trying, reaching and achieving all that I possibly can – for these are the lessons I will carry from my first 40 years into the next era of my life.

Now pass me a cupcake – it’s time to celebrate!