I feel an intense pressure on myself (all self-created, I know and realise) to have some insightful thoughts on turning 35. Normally, ever year, I take a little time out to reflect on the past year, but this year, I didn’t. I didn’t write about it (I have, for ten years, every year) and I didn’t stop to wallow in my inner sense of what I call “Birthday Emo”. There’s a really good reason for that.
By nature, I am horribly insecure, needy and annoying. I say this to myself, every day. It’s not a very nice thing to say to oneself though, and it’s also something I’ve been very aware of, especially over the past few years. I have a tendency to overthink everything, take anything said to me as a personal affront, and hit up the defence mechanisms the moment I feel hurt. It’s not been a very successful way to live, and it didn’t make me happy. It also didn’t make the people around me happy.
Perhaps it comes with age, but actively working on my inner monologue has helped to stop myself from constantly trying to gain approval. Yeah, I’m a big mouth about this, because I’ve been all “I don’t need your approval blah blah blah” since my teens but, truthfully, in my head, I’ve wanted it for a long time. It might be a side effect of getting older (cough*wiser*) but I need that less and less every day. I’ve learnt to say no when I need to, and yes when I want to, and to not over-commit myself. Something that the last year has taught me, is that taking care of me, makes everything else easier.
But there’s another side to this. The aggravating level of introspection I’m prone to, led me to beating myself up a lot, and constantly replaying things in my head where I thought I’d failed people (a big thing for me – not so long ago, I did fail at something, or I thought I’d failed someone, but I’ve learnt it was not just me in that situation, but a whole bunch of circumstances too). That beating myself up? Made me feel incapable. It didn’t serve me. It didn’t fix anything. It just made me sad. And, as surprising as it may seem to some people, I actually don’t like being sad.
Dear friends tell me I deserve good things, that I’ve worked towards where I am in my life, determinedly. I don’t think that dogged determination makes you immediately qualifiable for good things, because determination can often mean that you (unwittingly or otherwise) trample over other people. I don’t like trampling on people, possibly because I’ve felt trampled so often in the past.
I try to be a good person, as best I can, but there’s always something that I know I could be better at. Like I could do more charity work, or give more time to things, or, oh I don’t know, reorganise my cupboards in a better fashion. Perhaps I could learn to cook better meals? There’s a list longer than the Great Wall of China of things I could probably be doing better. But that list doesn’t matter in the real life I live, where I am who I am because of what I work towards. I have dreams and goals, ideas and ideals, and if I can go to bed at night having made some personal headway towards them, then I know i am okay. I know I am enough, but I have to remind myself that I am, because I am my own worst enemy sometimes, especially in the wallow of introspection.
So when I woke up on the morning after my 35th birthday, with my dog squished between me and my boyfriend, and my kid cuddled up next to me on the other side, I didn’t question it. I didn’t feel the need to analyse if everyone was where they wanted to be, or worry wart over “gosh, is this the life I wanted? Is this the life they want? Am I enough? Do I deserve this?”
Instead, I lay back, patted my dog, kissed my kid on her head, squeezed my boyfriend’s hand and looked outside to the chilly winter’s morning. And I liked it that way.