This piece originally ran on the author's website.
Last week was my 39th birthday. 39 years. On my birthday, I drove to work, thinking of my mother 39 years ago having contractions and driving to the hospital in an ice storm. I thought of her body, pushing me into the world, just as my body heaved my two sons into the world. I thought of my sons, of course, how they could only exist because I exist and I thought about life -- all 39 years of it, how beautiful and sad it's been, and then I cried. I cried for everything and everyone that 39 encompasses -- the loves, the lost loves, the people, the places, the moments. Maybe because it's one year from 40, but 39 seems sad to me. I'm not sad about being closer to 40, because 40 excites me. I'm sad because it feels like the end of something and the beginning of something else. I'm not sure. But when I think about 39, this is what I know:
1. I'm ready for my 30s to end, but at the same time, I'm more nostalgic for my 20s than ever. My 30s were about two things: my kids and my career. Most of my 30s are a blur of pregnancies, sleepless nights, diaper changes and bedtime stories. But my 30s have also been about balance -- maintaining a career while raising young kids and trying to be a working mom but, most days, feeling like a failure at both. It's no wonder I yearn for the days of fewer responsibilities that were my 20s.
2. I'm on the cusp of something. I'm transtioning from one stage of my life to the next -- and this is scary and overwhelming because, some days, I feel like I'm living five different lives -- mother/wife, teacher, writer, journalism adviser and friend. I'm doing too much. I'm not doing enough. That paradox consumes me.
3. Motherhood grounds me. Without my kids, I'd live in my head more than I already do. Watching my sons interact with the world makes me appreciate the present and makes me worry about the future less.
4. Scheduling -- a phone call with my best friend, a breakfast date with another friend, a simple conversation with my husband -- is the most difficult task in my day. Seriously. When did life get so busy and complicated? When the phone rings, I don't want to answer it. I dread checking my work email. My best friend and I have been playing phone tag for weeks. I cancel plans and need to reschedule because of an event at my son's school. My friend cancels plans because her son is sick. This type of back-and-forthing, which takes place over text message, controls my life -- and I never imagined (in my 20s) life could be so busy and full.
5. The only thing that scares me about getting older is getting old. I want the wisdom that comes with age, but I don't want the health problems. I'm scared of losing my parents, of watching those I care about get sick. I'm scared of cancer because it's in my genes. But, more than cancer, I'm scared of dying suddenly without being able to say goodbye.
6. Knowing myself better doesn't make decisions any easier. I still fret over everything. I still play scenarios out in my head. I still doubt. I am who I am and age only changes me so much.
7. The more friends I have, the lonelier I feel. Social media has brought many people into my world, including some people who I've been fortunate enough to meet in real life and consider friends, good friends. But, many days, I miss friendship. I miss the days before I had kids when my friends were the center of my world, when I saw them every day because they were my roommates or classmates or we sat next to each other at a bar for hours talking about everything and nothing.
8. Love is not what I thought it would be. At 39, love is the support of my husband, the unconditional love of my children and parents, and the ability to do what I love because of these important people.
9. I cannot depend on the opinions of others to make me happy. And I am still learning this. I am learning to let go of the fear of what others think, but it's so hard because don't we all just want to be seen? To be appreciated? To not be judged? I am still learning to let go of the voices inside my head.
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