Today I turn 35.
It’s a big one, a bittersweet one – a gift.
For me, it feels like a milestone in the progression from “young adulthood” to “mid-life.” The exhausting, precious phase of bearing children and nursing babies is drawing to a close for me, and with it, the chaos of that intense care that takes every ounce of time, attention and energy. It is a phase of life that is somehow both life-changing and monotonous, filled with days that are brimming with both utter drudgery and vital importance. But as my children gain independence, and I gain time, I finally know that it will be time well-spent.
I spent much of my life drifting, sometimes along the path of least resistance, scattered and trying a little of everything, and sometimes getting stuck. I have now been fortunate to stumble upon callings that I love and where I thrive – as a wife and mother foremost, but also a leader, teacher, advocate, writer, researcher and friend. I have discovered interests and passions that I believe will be life-long – faith, health, family, cultures and the movement between them.
The gift of 35 is finally knowing what I value and what I want, and having the courage and self-confidence to pursue those things. It is being anchored and empowered to decide when and where to move.
Of course, there will always be the things I can’t control, and that includes aging. I have started to accept that I will probably never again run a 7 minute mile, lose the extra weight in my waist-line, or get away with wearing clothes from the juniors section. My hair is not going to stop fading and my skin is not going to un-crease itself.
The loss of physical beauty is hard, even while I still consider myself to be a beautiful woman (most of the time), and even while I don’t value it all that much (theoretically). But it’s hard to see the shape of my body unwind little by little, like a play-doh figure with finger prints in strange places. It’s hard to notice a slight loss of flexibility, or a pain in some place where I never noticed one before, like a little, nettling reminder that the progression toward adulthood is complete, and now comes the inevitable descent.
But when I look at my body that has (3 times!) stretched and carried life, then pulled back, looking, each time, more like a grown woman, a mother – I love that body and what it has done. I love that it can run and jump and still do a handstand and a cartwheel (I think) and lift a child and hug a friend and shake a hand and eat and drink and breathe.
And I think this is another gift of being 35 – the ability to take things in stride; to be grateful for what we have and let go of the things that are less important. It is ceasing to hold anything too tightly, except for our faith. And while I have a habit, even now, of looking forward often, perhaps always looking ahead, I am more able to enjoy and experience the gifts of this moment that I can treasure as a memory and enjoy while they last.
So all in all, I think I’m going to love 35.