Today is the day I turn 40. While this is not a shameless plug for Happy Birthday wishes, feel free to drop them should you feel inclined 🙂 I’ll tell you what this post is also NOT about. It’s not about age. Is the number 40 monumental? Sure. I remember when I was 28, thinking that if I had a child that year I would be, OMG, 40 when that child was 12. I know, I was young and stupid. It seemed like such a large number and large numbers seem like such a bad thing. But it’s just another number.
This post is also not about how my body is not working the way I want it to. I mean, am I sore and feel like my hips are going separate from my body after playing “90” minutes of a soccer game? Why yes, my hips do in fact feel that something has gone terrible awry in the span of an hour and a half. One could theorize that it’s the aging process. It could also be that the only workout I get in during the week is that soccer game. So it’s entirely possible that my body is completely shocked and appalled when I decide once a week to run more than I have the entire week. This is also not a post on how I thought acne went away at 18, never to return again. LIES. ALL LIES.
What this post is about is a reflection of life up this point.
I feel as though I did a fair bit of growing up in my 30s. It could be that I became a mom at 30 or that I started working out traumatic events and repressed emotions from the past 30 years that set things in motion. Maybe it was both. Or maybe 30 is just the year of growing up for everyone?
For me, it was in my 30s, I realized that rather than going it alone as I had been for years, I should ask someone else to help guide me through things I had been avoiding. So I grew. Slowly. I let go of things; experienced a great deal of hurt I had avoided; screamed “no fair” like a toddler quite a few times; set boundaries; reset. I learned a great deal about myself during that time. What I was good at; what I would put up with; what didn’t make sense; what I loved (chocolate, cake, bread) ; what I didn’t love (vanilla ice cream); and the proverbial “who I was when no one was watching.” I learned I wasn’t perfect, but I was ok. And ok was good.
And then I did something incredibly brave for me, I started my own photography business. It was brave because in the past I never made decisions that didn’t somehow allow me full control of any given situation. I found myself at a much too early age relinquished of control and consequently discerning that I could never be in that kind of situation again. Ever. So, starting a business that had unknown and some uncontrollable variables created a situation that I had been determined to stay away from. But I had grown so very much, and it was time to jump. It’s still scary some times, but I love it. I love being a photographer. With every fiber of my being I’m so glad I took that step. I’m a better person for having taken that risk.
There is a part of me that regretted not getting to this point sooner because it felt like time continued to slip by. But I kept telling myself better late than never and each day is a new day to do this thing you love. So I trudged along and made plans – plans to grow in my field and as a person. A look to the future.
And then in the Spring both my parents died within the span of a month. And the trudging along with big photography dreams and everyday life completely derailed. I was at a loss because of the gaping hole and unanswered questions my parents left behind. There were so many loose ends to tie up, so many things left undone and unsaid. I didn’t even know where to start. Some days I still don’t know.
And so as I look back on this past decade, there a few things I would like to relate to you.
Wear the pom poms in your hair. Or whatever it is for you. I saw pom poms in a photo series done by Mario Testino with typical Peruvian outfits. I was awed by the photo series and was immediately taken in by the pom poms. So I thought why not. Why not do something simply because I want to regardless of the status quo? You never know when things will change. It’s the very nature of change – it doesn’t typically give you a heads up. Do that thing you want to do. It’s more real to me now, not because I’m turning 40, but because of the sudden loss of my parents. My parents also had plans, they were also trudging along – planning their next visit, golf outings, changes to their beach house, etc. And then it changed.
You will miss it when it’s gone. This past summer, I spent two months at my parents beach house in Peru. It was a planned trip, but suddenly, I found myself without the help of my mom when it came to my kids. But as all amazing people do, my mom’s cousin Marisol stepped in. She loved on my kids, let them hang out at her place, doted on them, and was a general life saver. She told me during that time she found herself sometimes slightly annoyed when my daughter would adjust her computer chair, only to be reminded by one of the staff members that she shouldn’t complain because in the span of a month we would be back in the US, and she would miss my daughter and the annoying chair habit. We laughed. I smile when I think of that memory but I find myself thinking how painful that truth is. Every October my mom would come to visit me for my birthday. She always said it was to celebrate my birthday but it felt like a punishment, because I had to divide my attention between what I wanted and what my mom wanted. And now that she’s not here, I miss it. I miss her presence despite the annoyance I felt. Things have endings and that’s ok. So I’m learning to practice gratitude because even the things that annoy me will be missed one day.
Sometimes the thing you want the most in life is not the best thing for you. Growing up I think I always felt like I was on the periphery. Like I didn’t quite belong. And I typically felt this more in what felt like the least expected place – around family. Maybe I was quiet and unapproachable and so people gave up on me. Or maybe I didn’t meet some expectation. Or maybe I just couldn’t put out there what I wanted. I’m not placing blame because there are so many factors that could have contributed to this feeling – the least of these was the sheer physical distance with my extended family and emotional distance with my immediate family. In the months since my mom’s passing, I became aware that I might never belong in some of those circles and it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. To be sure though, I grieved. It felt like another loss. I was letting go of something that I had valued for so long and it felt painful. The part that didn’t feel so bad was the realization that in that unmet need, I went in a different direction. I grew in my own way. I did things and made decisions that I might not had I pressed for belonging. I met some incredible people along the way that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. And there are some people in my family that I would have never guessed would support me and care for me, and those people are beyond any expectation I could have ever had and are worth whatever losses I may have experienced.
Thank you 30s. Here’s to continued growth, wearing peruvian pom poms, big and small photography plans, the daily everything, practicing gratitude, and to my amazing village – you guys are my everything and I hope you know it.
“In the midst of winter, I discovered within me an invincible summer.”