I turned 28 on the first of this month. You might think that the realization that the “big” 3 – 0 is just 2 years away might make me freak out in my current situation: totally single, living with strangers bereft of most of my stuff and still hunting for a full-time job. But it didn’t. Instead, I have entered this new year with more confidence and satisfaction than the last 4. I think 28 is going to be a great age because I am finally okay with me again.
Joseph Campbell said, “We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” As many of you know, I’ve struggled a lot to mentally let go of the plan that I had for my life and fully embrace the life that has been waiting for me.
When my birthday rolled around, I decided to do something different than usual. Instead of comparing my life to what I expected it to look like at this age, or who I thought I would be, I took a step back to just look at what I have accomplished and who I have become.
These are a few things I realized:
I pack A LOT into every year. In just the last 10 years since graduating from high school, I’ve earned 2 degrees. I’ve lived in 4 states, and 10 different towns/cities for varying lengths of time. I’ve spent a summer abroad in Oxford, England and I have made multiple trips down to Florida, Alabama and Ohio. I’ve executed or assisted with the execution of at least 50 events—ranging from concerts to large scale sampling events that involved hours of food prep all with hundreds of attendees—at more than 20 locations. I have won sales contests from 2 different companies. I have led dozens of workshops and training sessions. And I have managed multiple teams of people. No matter how diverse or surly my staff has been, I have always been able to earn their respect and successfully lead them even when I have been their junior by many years…And that’s just the highlights reel.
I can’t help but dance to the beat of my own drum. I’ve never set out to be different but I can’t really resist following unexpected paths from pursuing a degree in Philosophy (instead of the English degree I had planned to get) to leaving academia to pursue an unconventional career as a jane of many trades (event management, training, promotional marketing, copywriting/digital marketing, and blogging-being the most prominent).
I am equal parts extrovert and introvert (also known as an ambivert). I grew up thinking I was an introvert because I can be incredibly reclusive and task oriented. Most people who meet me assume that I am extroverted because I obviously thrive on social interaction. I have learned that I need an equal balance of both social interaction and alone time to stay energized. Too much of either drains me.
I value having challenging, varied and meaningful work over a stable or lucrative career. Even though I sometimes envy my friends and family who have more defined careers or are more driven by money, I have to accept that I am who I am. What makes me leap at a job isn’t money or stability, it is the challenge of wearing many hats, or sharpening my communication or interpersonal skills in new ways, or helping someone else succeed.
I will never date that much. Though the comic quality of so many people’s dating stories appeals to me, I don’t have the patience to go on random dates with lots of duds. Nor can I convince myself that it would be a reasonable investment of my time to bother trying. I’ve dated more in the last 4 years than I did during 6 years of college and grad school. That’s still not saying much but I’m okay with that. I am not at all ashamed of the fact that some of my weekends look a lot like this. When quality men enter my life, I give them a chance and that’s good enough for me.
When I meet a man that I want, there is no reason not to pursue him. Last year, a lot of my friends pointed out to me how strange it was that I wasn’t more aggressive in my romantic life since I’m so bold in most areas of my life. I realized that I was a little gun shy. I gave myself permission to pursue a guy I was kind of interested in. Though ultimately it didn’t work out romantically, it was a great experience. I learned that a) I enjoy being the pursuer as long as my interest in reciprocated b) I’m freaking adorable and quite winsome when I pursue.
I will never be without great relationships. I never guessed that one day I would have more good friends than I can count on one hand but I do. I’ve maintained friendships from high school and college and grad school while also gaining new friendships through my work. My friends aren’t all always actively involved in my life, and vice versa, but we know that the other is just a phone call or text message or Facebook message away. Part of what defines a good friendship to me is its ability to endure distance and time and being in different stages of life. I love how, even after years of silence, I can reconnect with a friend with renewed caring and understanding. It is amazing to me, with the wealth of friends that I already have, that I never seem to stop making new ones.
All in all, I am very happy with the life I am living and I am finally ready to say, “This is who I am and I’m okay with that.” I wouldn’t trade the complexity and challenges of my life for someone else’s or give it up to have the life I had planned.
Do you evaluate your life whenever your birthday rolls around? Have you ever felt like you needed to let go of the life you had planned?