Wednesday, February 26, 2014

30 Things to do Before I Turn 30

The first 28 years of my life have been eventful. I've lived in 30 houses in 7 different states, attended 4 universities and a trade school, seen Paris, Mexico, Canada, visited 20 states in the US and served a mission. I've fallen madly in love a few times and had my heart brutally broken once. I've met and made better friends than any person has a right to. I've given up and tried again, discovered talents I didn't know I had, and weaknesses I didn't want to know I had.  I've worked as a teacher, pizza maker, shelf stocker, deli slave, personal assistant to a boutique owner, campus bouncer, a special needs nanny, an RA, a waitress in a tapas bar, and now a cotton candy spinner extraordinaire. I've skinny dipped, road tripped, yelled at the ocean, stared at the moon, laughed so hard I've cried and cried so hard I've had nothing left to do but laugh. I've seen vibrant rainbows, more beaches than I can count, new babies and old ladies, big cities, small towns, gorgeous countryside and trees that tower so tall and majestic that I would dare anyone to not be overcome with a sense of awe at the sight of them.

And now, I'm almost 30. I'm 29 in fact--today.

To give you just a small glimpse of what it's like to be "almost 30" and a student at an LDS university that only offers undergraduate programs I will relate the following: A couple days ago I was sitting, sketching and a guy I'd talked to a few times around campus came and sat to make chit chat. We exchanged stories  and laughs for about half an hour. By that point I'd calculated that he was probably 21 years old and I could see he was getting curious. I always ask people to guess my age when they ask and he came up with the usual guess of 23. When I, half grinning, knowingly revealed that I was just about 29 the guy hilariously half choked, then caught himself and tried to recover with, "Oh, congratulations" and a handshake. 

When a woman gets this far past the ominous, "menace to society" label she has two options. She can either bury her head in shame and spend her days pining for a man to make her an acceptable member of Mormon culture-- a wife, a mother, an adult--or-- she can fully embrace the exceptional thing it is to be so free, to know herself so well and to have so many doors open to her and enough sense to go explore them. When put that way it's hard to understand why so many of us settle for option A. 

I've decided the best way to celebrate the year twenty-nine is to cram thirty more "to do"s into my eventful twenties. They've been good to me, and when they haven't been good to me, they've taught me oceans of lessons I benefit from daily. I want to give them the fine farewell they deserve.

I have one friend I reach out to in my blackest of the black moments. She is infinitely patient, kind, positive, and gently nudges me in the best direction-- even when I don't want to hear it. She intuitively contacted me moments after The Mr. walked out of my life for good and never seems to tire of my sometimes spastic pleas for help in moments of desperation. In recent conversation about the demise of my marriage she said, "I don't feel like it was the end of something. I don't even feel like it's now a new beginning. I feel like it's the beginning. The start of your beautiful life." I feel like I am in a place in my healing where I am ready to more fully look forward. I can feel a shift in me where the healthiest thing to do for me now is to look ahead and build, and the best way I can see to do that this year is to work my way through the list I've compiled of thirty things to do before I turn thirty.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"I'm blessed."

Tomorrow is my birthday, and I'm turning 29 years old. Twenty nine. The number that comes right before thirty. I spent a couple years living in the midwest of the US. When you ask someone how she's doing today in Missouri she'll reply, "I'm blessed." Today I have to say, there is no more accurate a description for my current state.

It's funny. When I got home from my mission and immediately threw myself headlong into The Mr. (who was leaving for his mission in 30 days and counting) I was 23 years old. I spent two years waiting for him, three months dating/engaged to him, two years married to him, one year grieving him, and now... I'm here. I applied to this campus fresh out of high school. There was nothing discernibly wrong with my application, but they firmly bid me good day, even after petitioning my rejection letter. Not to be deterred I applied again at the age of 20, and was likewise rejected. This third application to get my education in an isolated, paradise, safe haven was the the dialysis treatment that allowed new hope to start pumping through my crusty old cat loving, divorced lady veins. When I got my acceptance letter I literally, immediately dropped to my knees and cried and sobbed and gushed out thanks to my benevolent God for my chance to start this new life.

When people here guess how old I am, I find it an interesting coincidence that they almost always guess 23 years old. It's like I've been transported to another universe where I applied to Hawaii instead of Provo when I came home from my mission and the whole thing with The Mr. never even happened.

But unfortunately, it did happen, and sometimes I get really stuck in the sadness of it all, the wrongness, the injustice, the tragedy. I find myself re-impailing myself over the same broken, distorted memories again and again: trying to discern where it started to go wrong, wondering if there were things going on I missed, recalling the way his voice sounded when he called me to say, "I don't love you anymore," wondering how I could have ever been so stupid.  This is a terrible habit that I do not recommend and lately I've gotten almost overwhelmingly fed up with the deep mental groove this pattern has worn in my synapses and psyche, and I've been making my most conscientious efforts to change it. Today I experienced some success.

I've mentioned this before, but it's in one of the first posts here, which was almost a year ago now, so I feel like I'm justified in revisiting the concept. It's something I need to be reminded of again and again. Sometimes we get so caught up in the wrongness of what happened. I find I can almost feel guilty or inauthentic being okay, healing, moving on, even being glad or grateful for it. Today was a beautiful reminder that it's okay to be okay. As I walked to class today instead of fretting about my long dead love life with The Mr. and how I might have saved it if I had only…I thought about how he was strongly opposed to me going back to school to finish my bachelors degree. I thought about all the times  he was completely emotionally disconnected when we had sex and how empty I felt after. I thought about the time I got pregnant, how I was going to tell him I was expecting, but before I could he sat me down and told me he was almost at the end of his rope in our relationship. I thought about how the stress, panic and anxiety I felt during that pregnancy was so palpable it may as well have been a bowling ball, unexpectedly careening around my world. I remembered the cruel way he responded to me in my desperate loneliness and depression during my miscarriage, and then I thought about how that baby would be just over one year old now, and how different my life would be if she were.

After all that I thought: Thank God. Thank God I went through a divorce. Thank God I don't have that kind of life irrevocably laid out before me. Thank God I get a second chance. 

I am 29 years old in one day and counting and I get to spend hours a day with charcoal and clay, learning chants in Hawaiian and planning trips to leave the country, learn languages, build businesses and dream as big and as free or as small and as me as I want. I am the luckiest girl. The luckiest, and it's okay for me to feel it. It's okay for me to let it be.