When I was in third grade, our class had a writing assignment called "When I am 30." It was an assignment meant to allow our carefree 9-year-old minds to be as imaginative as possible, creating one ideal scene after another of what our lives would be like in 20 years. I was so excited to do this assignment, and ran right home after school to get started. I spent the next two hours writing page after page of my newly-learned cursive writing, spilling all of my deepest secrets about my future. Oh, I had it all. The white picket fence, the front lawn so green it could be on a commercial, a loving and successful husband, three kids (two girls and a boy), a dog that didn't smell, drool, or shed, a successful career that I "got out of the way early," enough money to pay for anything I wanted, and more self-worth and self-love than I knew what to do with. At 9 years old, I wanted the American dream, and I knew that surely by the age of 30 (if not sooner), I'd be there. The next morning I turned in the assignment and sat quietly at my desk, silently judging the other children who were excitedly sharing about their dreams. Some wanted to be pilots or astronauts, while others wanted to immerse themselves in being a doctor or nurse or a professional athlete who wouldn't have time or energy for a family. But I knew better than to run around blabbing my future. I figured it was much like birthday wishes and that if I told them to anyone, they wouldn't come true. And so I sat there with my hands folding, smiling to myself at the thought of standing in my sun-filled kitchen, balancing a toddler on my hip while my other two children played at my feet and classical music played in the background as I prepared a gourmet meal for my husband. The windows open and the permanent spring-like air flowing in, creating the most beautiful, jasmine-scented breeze. How rewarding my life would be, I thought, to be so young and to already have everything I wanted. All of the years of playing house, playing with dolls, pretending to run errands in my pretend car -- would all pay off. I would live a fulfilled life as a young mother with one fierce sense of self and independence.
Five days ago, I turned 30. I am almost afraid to let my 9-year-old inner child know the state of my life right now. I can almost feel her intense eyes glaring at me, judging silently and waving her finger at me as if to say "bad girl." The truth is, I had a lot of expectations for myself in the third grade. I had no idea what life was actually about or how things would work, or that getting married and having a family was a little more work than I could comprehend at that age. But I did it, I hit the milestone I have been waiting to hit for the past two decades of my life -- but the reality is, my life looks nothing like the ideal scene I created almost 21 years ago. I brought in my 30th birthday surrounded by tea lights and mala beads, sanskrit affirmations, and incense and sage burning so high that I singed a piece of my hair. I ended my long-term relationship of five years last August, so there was no husband to speak of, nor children, for that matter. I rent my townhouse, so the white picket fence and the green grass are certainly not part of the package and didn't make a debut on this big day. And to top it off, my birthday celebration was a dinner party that included exactly two men: my nephew and my good friend. The rest of the attendees were all my closest spiritual women friends who I practice yoga with and call when I am having moments where I could really use a friend. To say the least, I think my inner child was a little disappointed.
For months leading up to my 30th birthday, I felt moments of utter joy and happiness, followed quickly by moments where I was on the bathroom floor, calling my mother and telling her I couldn't go on. How could I face myself? How could I accept that I was almost 30 and had no husband, and no kids -- let alone three of them. How had I let this happen? How had I not been one of the "lucky ones" who had it all, including the picket fence and the Mercedes SUV and all the money and happiness and romance and... well, the list goes on. And my mother, who did have three kids around the age of 30, would reassure me that going through "self-identity" was much easier without having to take care of three kids under 10. And so I would peel my soggy self off the floor and remember how much I had to be thankful for, such as my health coaching practice and my friends and my yoga practice. My friends, many of whom are older than me, would remind me how young I was and that there are plenty of women even older than me who aren't married and who don't have kids. And I would half-listen, but whine and cry about it as soon as I got home because I wanted all of that -- and I wanted to have it by now. I felt like that girl in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. "But I want it now!" But I shifted my focus from what I didn't have, to releasing the misbeliefs and mishaps of my 20s and attracting the abundance and joy of what would be my 30s.
The truth is that my inner 9-year-old is still so alive with hope that she will someday have all the things that she dreamed of. And the other truth is that little 9-year-old is me -- she just happened to grow up and turn 30. But all the dreams and hopes and desires for the family and the house and the dreamy life, are all still here, in my big, adult heart. The 30-year-old in me still longs for the baby on my hip and the little ones playing at my feet while my husband cooks on the grill outside, and we all watch in admiration. The girliest, most feminine parts of me still want that so bad that I have had to do what people say to do with things you really want. I had to kiss it goodbye. And slowly, one image at a time, that ideal life has begun to leave my mind. Yes, I still want it and yes, a part of me will feel devastated if I never have it, but something deeper inside me is reminding myself that I am not the one in charge here. I never thought that I would awaken to my career so late in life (in my opinion), but it has been one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences of my life. Perhaps if I was married and had kids, I wouldn't be able to experience it in the same way. I know my true calling is to help people, despite a part of me arguing and saying that my true calling is to have babies. Maybe it is to have babies, but what's happening right now is that I am thriving professionally and making a real difference in the world, one person at a time.
I still have days where I start to feel myself spinning into an emotional pit of self-pity, but for the most part I just keep putting one foot in front of the other. My life is what it is right now and it's pretty amazing, to the point where sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I am awake. But it's true that in the late afternoon, as I am finishing up emails and ending the professional part of my day, my mind wanders back to that day when I sat at my desk and smiled to myself, knowing that the life of my dreams would happen. And again, I find myself thinking forward to a time when I will have it all and have the awareness to know that I have it all. I guess my inner child and I have something in common.
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