No regrets, just cats - & wine.
30-something, flirty, and trying...
If you couldn't tell, the name of this blog is a play on words, based on the movie 13 Going on 30. Jennifer Garner's character, Jenna, desperately wishes to grow up and work for her favorite magazine, Poise, and to be 'thirty, flirty, and thriving.' This is an excerpt taken from between the fictional mag's pages, shown beside a beautiful model, purporting supposed success and happiness that Jenna yearns after. I love the movie, but I also have a lot in common with Jenna Rink. She has fantastic taste in music (Love is a Battlefield is one of my anthems), big aspirations, and my boobs fill out a dress pretty damn well, too. However, what I relate to most is that Jenna found herself in a position where she had achieved many things, but realized she lost a lot of years and people in the process; she wished she could have done things differently.
Much like Jenna transformed from 13 to 30, I sometimes feel as though I lost my twenties, and I wish I could claim that time back. File this one under hindsight and regrets, but not in a sad way - in an enlightened way, one in which you can only appreciate something after it's gone and too late to get it back. It's like a relationship - it actually IS a relationship - but with a former version of myself.
There are many days I look in the mirror, and I'm not sure how I ended up here. 'Here' - defined as nearly being able to classify myself as someone in her mid-thirties (the horror!), paired with feeling like I have not accomplished what I had imagined I would have by this age. When older people tell you clichéd statements of how you'll blink and you'll basically be middle-aged, they are not shitting you. After all, I'm the girl that cried on her 20th birthday because she was no longer a teenager - I was certain it would be downhill from there, though I was admittedly a bit drunk at the time (disclaimer: don't drink alcohol, you will get pregnant and die! Unless you're 21, then feel free to make bad decisions and get knocked up at your leisure).
My theory on aging when I was younger was that you turn 17, you can drive. You turn 18, you're legally an adult. At 21 years old, you can drink. What happens after that? Nothing. You have nothing left to look forward to - you get old! What an optimist I used to be.
When I graduated high school, I didn't really have a plan per se. I wasn't unintelligent, just uninspired. I had always loved and excelled in English, and briefly considered teaching. That thought ceased after witnessing my senior year English professor get tortured because she was too meek, which I definitely was back then. I decided that I was ill-equipped to lead children in a classroom, so I instead made a practical choice, albeit not one that would make me happy: I would pursue a degree in Business Administration. I was already working in an office, making a decent salary - quite a bit higher than most others my age. I attended county college and felt business was the logical choice given my job. It didn't hold my attention, nor did it feed my passion, so I dropped out two or three semesters in. I went back sporadically over the years, but no matter how I tried, it never stuck with me for the same reasons. I had always been in awe of kids - still am - who were able to identify their profession of choice at a mere 15 years old and map out their future accordingly. I just wasn't that girl. I reasoned that the piece of paper was not necessary, especially given that I was doing fine without it. Even so, I regretted my choice early on, and had started going back to school for the second time when I was 21, almost 22; then I started dating my now ex-husband.
Love is such a whirlwind, isn't it? It is amazing how euphoria can cloud your judgment and make a sane person make decisions they normally wouldn't make otherwise. My ex and I moved fast; we had been friends previously and thought we knew each other enough to be sure "this was it." Within 2 weeks we were uttering "I love you" and within a month I moved in with him, an hour away from my family and friends. I was 22 years old and he was 23, and we were discussing forever, something we had no business doing, not with each other and especially not at that age. Did I mention I started dating him approximately two weeks after getting out of a 3 year relationship, one in which was one of the most important relationships I had ever had? I left my ex-boyfriend and knew I needed to escape from how I felt, and boy, did I ever. At the time, my now ex-husband treated me like I made his world go round, and he seemingly had his shit together (not really, but I was young and naïve). I told myself that this must be how it's supposed to turn out, even though I always had to quiet the voice in the back of my head.
When I turned 25, I experienced what has been coined the quarter-life crisis. My ex and I were now engaged; there were some red flags, and we had experienced some rocky patches, but we had settled into our relationship and routine (read it again: we settled). I had a job that I enjoyed, was making good money, and for all intents and purposes, I was happy. However, the distance from my friends was starting to wear on me (my ex didn't have many of his own friends and preferred to stay home, so I didn't often leave him to go out). My friends were at the height of their 20's, partying and living it up, and I was sitting at home with him, as though I was an old married woman. Before my birthday, I started going out more and thinking about our relationship, and the fact that I was about to be 25. Did I really want to get married? I wasn't sure, and I was really freaked about that number. I even bought a book on how I should deal with my experience, but I quickly solved that problem by getting pregnant (celebrating my birthday, I might add - surprise!), so - I ended up adulting - really adulting - sooner than I expected or was really prepared for.
My son (who will be 9 in a few short weeks) is the best thing that has ever happened to me. All the sappy things you hear people say are a million percent true, you just can't appreciate it until you become a parent yourself. Getting pregnant made me see everything in a different light, and I realized my ex and I were forever connected now by this child. I remember feeling like this is when I fully committed to him and our future, and now I recognize that ironically this is when he started to back away from our relationship. Still, we married shortly after Richie was born.
2007 through 2009 were the hardest years of my life. I was unprepared for the challenges I faced, which included supporting my husband through a battle with addiction, his resentment towards me as he became a stay at home father, and frustration and stress as financial burdens grew, all the while caring for our son and navigating life as new parents. We grew apart to the point where we were no longer even friends, and I fell into a period of depression. Eventually, I discovered he was cheating and he left. I remember feeling so betrayed and numb. I spent a good majority of the six months afterwards in the fetal position (both literally and figuratively speaking), while he started his new life with his girlfriend and her kids - a new insta-family. The experience left me traumatized.
I was angry with him for awhile. I had given up many things, and I had always been the one to support us, and he left ME? It was not easy at first, but I was soon able to see that things often work out for the best. I used to blame him for wasting my time or taking my years, but I was an active participant in the situation, and I just did not choose wisely when I previously ignored red flags. Despite the pain, I learned how incredibly resilient I was through that experience, and it gave me quite a backbone.
So, what happened to my twenties, or, more appropriately, my youth? I grew up, the hard way. Sometimes, like Jenna, it feels like I went directly from that tearful 20th birthday party, then woke up to being almost 30 years old. The truth is, I just never appreciated how young I was - ironic for someone that was always very conscious of aging. I was unintentionally careless with that period of time, which is when major life events and personal developments really occur and transform you into the person you are going to be. Yet, I can't help but believe that my mistakes were a blessing in disguise.
I am a kinder person because I know how it feels to have someone be unkind. I respect all people; I try to always put myself in someone else's shoes before I speak or judge, because I know how it feels to be judged by those that thought they knew my story. I am now more selective in the people I associate with, both on a friendship and romantic level; as a result, I am surrounded by positive, amazing people that enrich my life and bring out my best self. My mistakes gave me the opportunity to step back, assess myself, and recognize in what areas I lacked and was capable of growth. I continue working every day to become the best person I can be, and have learned how to really love and appreciate who I am, and who I have become.
Sometimes I wish it had been different; I even imagine how it would have turned out. However, I've realized that everything happens for a reason, and I'm the strong woman I am today because of my experiences. I won't pretend that I love my age, but I can't trade what those years taught me; it's priceless. Though it is indeed another cliché, it is only time, experience, and hindsight that can give you this sort of bittersweet appreciation to recognize your growth: I didn't lose anything. I gained everything, because I learned who I was and what I'm capable of.