Some of you will laugh at me. Mostly those who are older and have already been where I’m heading. Others of you will completely relate in this moment right now. A few of you might be so far from this point that it has not even crossed your mind.
The Big One
I’ve officially reached the “hill.” The big 40. What’s supposed to be the middle of my life. While talking to a friend recently, I struggled to articulate why exactly I was dreading this milestone. I wasn’t where I thought I would be at this point in my life. I started turning everything negative. Listing all of the reasons I wasn’t “ready” for 40.
For example, 20 years after starting my college journey, here I am STILL trying to obtain my bachelor’s degree. I am not as financially secure as I would like to be. My relationship has endured the toughest year out of eight years. We’ve also faced some tough times in the trials and tribulations of raising teenagers. Along with all of this, I’ve been feeling the pressure from friends and complete strangers’ lives on the dreaded social media. I’m sure it was because of my looming big birthday, but I’ve been hyper-focused on lots of women “feeling their best ever” physically…and looking it.
The Eye Opener
My friend said one sentence that started a snowball of new thinking. “No matter where you are in life, you will always want something different or something more.” This statement literally stopped me in my tracks. How true is this? If I literally had accomplished every little thing in life by the time I was 40, what the heck would I be doing? If all of society followed the same patterns of completing each milestone at the same time, how would any of us be beautifully different?
Lessons Along the Way
Even if I had finished my degree at 22 years old, I would never be done learning. Every day we learn new things whether we want to or not. There’s still so much more I want to learn and am curious about. I, along with so many young adults, thought I knew everything. I was convinced that traveling right after high school was much more important than continuing my education. And maybe it was. I will forever have the memories and lessons learned from taking the harder path. Bravely, I ventured out into an unknown world with no idea where I was going or how I was going to earn the money to get there, but I made it happen. I chased what I thought was love and lived like a gypsy when that didn’t work out.
Being Rich Doesn’t Always Mean Money
My savings account may not be overflowing. It’s not even at a comfortable “what if something happens” status, but I’ve stashed some away for retirement. I am blessed that I no longer have to worry about how I’m going to pay the utilities each month. I’ve come a long way from my single mom days when I cried at the thought of using a food bank for the first time. Those experiences during trying times made my kids and I closer. It humbled us and hopefully was a life lesson. It’s okay to ask for help when you need it. Don’t be too proud to ask for that help. Remember those lows to appreciate the highs.
My relationship has endured a really tough year and we’re still going despite the difficulties we’ve faced TOGETHER. Each difficulty that has risen with blending two divorced families we have conquered! And we don’t want to give up because we are stronger together with each hurdle we face. Unfortunately, raising kids doesn’t come with a one size fits all handbook, but I know in my heart each day we are doing our best. I’m confident at the end of the day that we love each other and will continue on this crazy ride called life knowing we have the others back…always…
Self-created Jealousy and Competition
I fall in and out of the trap of comparing myself to everyone else’s perfect life as portrayed on social media. Honestly, I’ve tried to stay away from it for that exact reason, but next thing you know, I’ve missed somebody’s birthday or didn’t love someone’s post and there are hurt feelings flying around. I try and remind myself that most people only post the best parts of their lives like the smiles, trips, and achievements. What is not usually seen are the sad, tough, or unbearable times.
Lately however, I’ve been obsessing about my physical self. Every time I see a 20 year reunion picture I’m scanning for how amazing all these moms look. How they’re thin or fit or both. I also acknowledge that part of my insecurity was letting myself go a bit. Amongst all the chaos I had forgotten to take care of myself. With mortality and vanity weighing heavy on my mind I decided to make some changes. I was kicking butt at the gym, watching what I ate, and purchasing every sagging skin care remedy I could find. After months I was receiving compliments about looking better, but I could not for the life of me see it. I was still wearing the same clothes and looking at the same tired face every day.
I sometimes still struggle with my self-image, but have had some serious talks with myself and finally feel like I’m not so bad. Maybe this worn out shell is comfortable where it’s at. I tell my inner undermining voice that this body has brought life to two beautiful children and can still have fun with the best of them. Throw me on a bike, behind a tube, on a sled, or hiking absolutely anywhere. I might be slower than some, but I am physically able to be active and that is something to be grateful for. I don’t have to be perfect…that would be boring.
The Beauty of Not Being Finished
And THIS is the beauty of living! We humans will (hopefully) ALWAYS want more. If we don’t keep wanting more for ourselves, then how would we keep moving forward? To be honest, if we became perfectly content in our lives and didn’t want anymore out of life, it would potentially feel stagnant. I firmly believe in being happy with what you’ve got, but also never give up on wanting more. I’m not talking about physical items necessarily. By all means, never stop chasing what brings you happiness. If you are still chasing something then you are still living.
I hate telling people they were right, especially in my downer days when I’m dwelling on everything that is wrong in my life. BUT, my friend was right. Mostly. Because in all reality, I am pretty happy in life. As a person that struggles with depression, it’s easy for me to say I’m happy when I’m on the upturn and not in a downward spiral. But when I actually sit down and make myself think about it, I have accomplished many things that I had set my mind to. I am still working on myself daily in learning, loving, and living. Life is tough and has knocked me down a few times, but I haven’t given up and I don’t plan on it.
So love the life you live, but don’t live in contentment. Keep searching for happiness because there are plenty of sources for that. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished, but keep striving for more.