Despite the fact that I'm on a business trip in Anaheim, California (which might as well be Indianapolis, Indiana or Anywherelse, America + palm trees + Mickey), I am 29 years old today. Yes. The rumors are true. Time does not stop on the West Coast. It’s just earlier here.
So this is OK, right? I’m going to spend my birthday hanging around a booth in an exhibits hall and monitoring some educational programs, and that’s cool. It’s not the usual, “it’s my birthday, and I’ll do I want” kind of day, but that’s fine too. I’m feeling rather Zen… at the moment anyway.
The truth is, as I get older, as I officially enter the last year of my roaring twenties, I feel decidedly better about… well, pretty much everything. This is the third birthday post I have written, and in addition to just loving ze blog for the sake of ze blog, it's interesting, perhaps even valuable, to be able to go back and read and KNOW where I was a year ago, two years ago. It's not necessarily about what I wrote; it's that I can hear the sound of my voice when I read my posts. And I can be thankful about how far I've come and the changes in my life.
Let's recap, shall we?
When I turned 27, I quit my job at the Agency and accepted a position at the Association. I had just moved into a condo in Rogers Park with my now ex-boyfriend. I was spending my Saturday mornings training on the lakefront for my first half marathon. I resented my boyfriend. I was sick of working 10-12 hour days (minimum). I felt disconnected because I didn’t want to tell my friends how miserable my relationship actually was. When I read my birthday post, I can almost see myself gritting my teeth, straining a smile, and saying, “Everything is great. You know, it’s a lot of changes… and it’s going to take some time to get used to everything…” blah blah blah, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. I felt trapped because I had managed to get myself into a living situation that very obviously not for the best. Faking happiness is really exhausting. Just FYI.
And then, I turned 28. I read that post, and I can hear that I was depressed. I had just been dumped by a guy who could have been the poster boy for “He's Just Not That Into Me.” Luckily, it was never a serious relationship, but it was the first person I dated after the infamous ex-boyfriend so, for me, at that moment, it seemed like a big deal. (P.S. To the three dudes who read this blog, dumping a girl who you’re just not that into right before her birthday is a really shitty thing to do, and I’m pretty sure you do it just because you don’t want to expend the energy to get a gift and/or card. Think about it. Wait a day or two. That $2.50 you spent on a card isn’t going to break you.) My job -- after a year -- was very obviously not working out as I had hoped. I felt lost. For no real reason, for no “good” reason, I felt like my life was a mess despite the fact that I felt more at home in Lincoln Square -- it doesn’t hurt to have some of your closest friends within blocks of you! Regardless, I still felt like things were never going to “fall into place” for me. I said that. I was still running. I arguably became slightly obsessed with running. And I decided to do the marathon (spoiler alert: it didn’t work out!).
This year, I’m 29. I’m pretty hungry right this second, but other than that, I’m thankful. I’m thankful that my director at work gave me the opportunity to take on some new job responsibilities that has allowed me to do more of what I like and less of what I don’t. And -- AND! -- I am now working with a new team who seems to actually value me and my skill set. It always amazes how much of a difference the people you are working with can make in your moral and motivation. For the first time, in a long time, I’m feeling engaged in my work, and rethinking the possibility of a major career change… in the near future anyway. Even here, in Anaheim, I feel like I have enough great people around me that I’m looking forward to celebrating my birthday with work friends (I informed @ like three months ago that she was on the hook for hanging out with me today in California, even if it meant sitting on my hotel room bed and eating a pint of ice cream).
I’m also thankful every single day that MM is in my life. Nothing is perfect, and we have our issues, but I feel so darn lucky to be with someone who makes sense for me -- no forcing smiles, no wondering what the hell I’m doing. Just happy. And, the weird thing is that everything I ever verbalized about the person I was looking for -- Match.com profiles anyone? -- I never came close to describing someone like him. With other boyfriends, I always had “expectations” that weren’t being met, the inevitable “If only he…” Fill in the blank. When I think about that, I realize that I have never once wished or hoped that MM was something that he is not. I have never “if only-ed” MM. I can only hope that doesn’t change.
For whatever reason, I feel compelled to post something meaty on my birthday, which I've attempted to do here. It's probably lame, but whatever. But I'm serious. Every year the whole getting older thing seems a lot less daunting when I realize that life actually does get better. Eventually, in the future, it's likely that I'll grace this blog with another "how running changed my life" post. And, it's not just the last three years... it's like, holy shit, this is not the life I expected to be living and yet, after years of feeling like I wasn't finding my way, I suddenly am actively living a life that has the potential to make me happy for the rest of my life. I think when we're younger sometimes we gravitate to what we think other people expect or we turn against that and do harm to ourselves. To varying degrees, at different times in my life, I have probably done both. Compliance and rebellion. Running grounded me in ways I never could have predicted, much less imagined. Running has given me community, identity, goals, and passion. I cannot imagine my life without it.
So I guess that's it. 29 folks. I think it's going to be a good year.