Today is my 29th birthday, the last year in my twenties. I am not sure how I got here because I could’ve sworn I was just working as a cashier at my local Mexican food restaurant dreaming of the day I would go to college and get out of my hometown.
Life looks a little different at 29 than I expected it to look. I was never the girl to dream about the day she would get married or the whole white-picket-fence fairy-tale. But I was the girl that dreamed of getting a good job making enough money to support myself and my family. For the majority of my life, I’ve had tunnel vision on becoming successful in the working world. It was my top priority, and I didn’t let myself have room for any other dreams. Success to me was being seen as driven and hard worker. A good job title and high salary were my yardsticks to success, and I didn’t have time for much more than that.
Now, at 29 with a bit more emotional maturity and a hard slap in the face to my ego, I realize how little life I was letting myself live so focused on a job and money as my only success metrics. That one aspect of life I cared SO much about is not even a current possibility for me. Isn’t life cute that way? I think a big part of me didn’t let myself be the white-picket fence dreamer because that felt too vulnerable and not as much in my control as working hard and making money. Jokes on me though, because in the attempt to focus only on things I thought I could control I ended up in a season of life out of my control. I bet it all on red, and the ball landed on black. But I have come to realize, that is what happens when you become overly obsessed and laser-focused on one aspect of life as your end-all-be-all, you completely forget there is so much more life to live.
I have been thinking about this birthday a lot over the last couple of months. In general, I think 29 is a significant birthday. It’s your last year in your twenties, and culturally we see it as that one last year before we step completely into full-blown adulthood. We are expected to “have it together” and know who we are and what we want. But sitting here right now, I can honestly say I have no idea what I want, and I feel like I’m just starting to get to know who I am. It’s so cliche, but age really is just a number. I mean let’s be real y’all, I look closer to the age of a girl that just graduated from high school than a girl rolling into the last year of her twenties (which I can finally appreciate for the first time in my life). But babyface jokes aside, I anticipated this being a tough birthday for me. There are a lot of boxes I haven’t checked off that society says I should have done by now and one of those boxes was definitely not getting a chronic illness and becoming roomies with my mom again.
So, I would be lying if I sat here and said I hadn’t had some pity party moments for myself around my current state of affairs. I am grieving those little girl dreams of what I thought life would look like at this age, and I have anxiety surrounding my thoughts of where my friends are in their lives and careers in comparison to mine. I said it earlier, but my ego feels like it is standing in front of a stadium full of people completely naked and exposed. But I’ve also had just as many moments of peace and acceptance of where I am in my life to combat those negative thoughts. My life isn’t following some societal expectation of where a 29-year-old female should be. I don’t fit into that box, and I am starting to not only be okay with that but seeing the possibilities it can open up for me to be who I am meant to be and live a life I can be proud of living. One that is not ego driven, money driven or society driven, but driven by love and acceptance of myself.
At 29 I am finally taking my blinders off and learning to look at life in a whole new light. It’s not about a job title, money, or success. It’s really about self-love, acceptance, and meaningful relationships with others. This year I am going to learn to dream again. I am going to dream about all the possibilities of what I can do with my life when I get better, of all the authentic and genuine relationships I can make and nurture by learning to love myself and be vulnerable enough to share that with others. I am going to dream without ego or self-judgment, and through that dreaming, I am going to finally start living.