A few days ago I turned 35 years old. It feels like one of those big milestone numbers. Which I guess also feels apt to life right now.
The past year has been one of pretty intense introspection and growth. The past year(-ish, plus a few months) brought a lot of massive changes-- moving across the country, again, to a place that was both familiar yet still different and new; moving away from people who were some of the best friends I have ever had; my brother's death; beginning homeschooling, a venture that has been equal parts terrifying and exhilarating.
Some of these changes were ones we actively chose and had control over, some we did not. Either way, they meant a lot of emotional work. They meant getting to know a new neighborhood and city all over again, finding where all your new favorite local places will be. Trying to make new local friends. Helping my now-old-enough-to-really-feel-the-pain-of-moving kids with the Very Big feelings of loss they felt (particularly D) at leaving behind a beloved home and beloved friends. My first real experience with loss of a loved one. Talking with my kids about death, and facing up to my own mourning and regret over opportunities missed. Examining what I mean by family, who deserves my time and attention, and how to be intentional about making time for those who matter to me.
Homeschooling has led me to re-examining my views on parenting and the relationship between a parent and child, and my attitudes towards many rules/principles within our household. I feel even more firmly rooted in some of my values, and have completely changed my mind on a few others. That is one of the fascinating lessons in growing older, how I keep finding myself finding out about new things, and whole new worlds opening up as I expand my mind to consider new ideas I never would have before.
Zach has now been at his post-MBA job for just over a year, and we've been having many talks about his career and the future, which also include many questions about how we want to structure our life as a family-- what are our needs? What kind of a lifestyle do we want to strive for? What trade-offs are we willing to make?
And among all this, I have also been thinking about my goals. As my own person. About my roles and goals and desires as a Wife, as a Mother, as a Woman. And many of those work together, and many conflict, and how to deal with that? Thirty-five years into life, eleven years into marriage, seven years into parenthood, and these questions remain relevant because the answers continue to evolve and change as all of life does. I used to really shy away from setting anywhere near to concrete goals for myself because setting goals means having to actually start doing work towards them, which is really scary because what if you fail? Or find you just suck? But I'm finding myself feeling more comfortable with thinking about what I want for the future, and what of that I want to try to achieve sooner and what can wait till later. Some of this is smaller things, like taking time to read the books I want to read and watch the shows and movies I want to watch, without feeling guilt at "wasting" time on doing things simply *gasp* for pleasure. Some of it feels bigger, like maybe one day wanting to go back to school or pursuing more with photography. It's a constant teeter-tottering trying to find that ever-shifting balance between my own needs and wants and those of my family, and how to find that balance, that compromise that feels satisfying without the risk of breeding resentment.
One big goal I have had for myself, and will continue to strive for always, probably, is to be mindful and intentional with my time and my choices. Coping with the shittier parts of life can be a little easier when you chose them as a trade-off for other things you wanted even more. And some things we don't have a choice over-- but even then, we often can make the choice to own the situation we are in, if that makes sense, and try to make it our own.
So it's been kind of a heavy year, and some of it has felt very sad and frustrating, and some of it has been amazing and wonderful. I have been reminded many times over of what great people I have in my life, who love me and support me and there is no way to describe how incredible that feels. Lately I also have often marveled at how heartwarming and humbling it is to feel so intensely loved and needed by my children, in that way only your children can. Parents, especially we stay-at-home parents, often lament feeling like we have lost ourselves in caring for our children, and I struggle with that sometimes too, but in many ways I also feel the most like MYSELF now than I have ever before, certainly before I had kids. Or, well, maybe like I am at the best version of myself. Like I know myself and (despite that inner critical voice that lingers so peskily) feel most comfortable in my own skin than I have before.
So, I guess, here's to 35 great years, and to (hopefully) many more ahead. And to more pondering and exploring and learning and growing.