Last week I celebrated my 31st birthday. Our new little family celebrated quietly at home, but though the day passed without much fanfare, it was my best birthday in recent memory. The reasons had nothing to do with my birthday itself and everything to do with my attitude.
For the past several birthdays I have approached each new age with reluctance and dread. These feelings came to a head last year, when the advent of my thirtieth birthday sent me into a deep depression and left me questioning my life’s choices and purpose. To help myself process through those feelings, I wrote about what I was doing to accept my entrance into my thirties. Amazingly, I took my own advice (a rare occurrence, if I’m being honest) and chose to embrace the aging process rather than trying to resist it. And this year, much to my own surprise, I found myself staring down that additional candle on the
cake frozen yogurt with no anxiety or regrets. What a difference a year makes!
I’m currently working my way through Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In his discussion of the first habit, Be Proactive, Covey reminds readers that we are ultimately the ones responsible for the affect that external circumstances have on our lives. He writes, “It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.” By shifting our attitude from one of martyrdom to one of empowerment, we can achieve contentment and fulfillment in the midst of whatever challenges life throws our way. This past year, I’ve been working on taking this concept to heart. I cannot control or change the fact that I am getting older, but I can modify my attitude toward the aging process. And rather than begrudging the (unavoidable) fact that I am no longer in my twenties, I’m focusing on celebrating my age and all that being in the thirty-something club entails.
I won’t pretend that this paradigm shift was completely the result of my own personal efforts or that it happened in isolation from external factors: though it wasn’t exclusively brought on by the advent of motherhood, the fact that I became a mom in my thirtieth year certainly helped. The existence of this new little person in my life is a constant reminder that a world exists outside of my personal insecurities and obsessions. There are so many things that are more important than the fact that I’m not as young as I once was: time will keep marching on whether I am 29 or 31 or 99, and each minute spent ruminating about my age is a minute that would be better spent enjoying life’s abundant blessings. I want to soak up every second of my beautiful life—even those moments that at the time feel more messy than beautiful—and I simply can’t do that if I’m focusing my energies on issues outside of my control.
Though I’m only a week into year 31, I can honestly say that I am more confident, fulfilled, and hopeful about the future than I have been at any other age. I am thankful for every one of those 31 birthday candles, because each one represents an additional year of wisdom and experiences that have made me the woman I am today. In his birthday card to me, Luke wrote “I hope you don’t feel old, just wiser and more prepared for the adventures that await us in the coming year.” I am happy to say that that is exactly how I feel.