This Is 35

I've been seeing a lot of blog posts lately about reaching a certain age and chronicling the things you've learned and noticed in that timeframe. As I approach my 35th birthday I feel compelled to write my own. I am basically starting over at almost the midpoint of my life due to a divorce after 15 years of marriage, and while at times I certainly feel overwhelmed and confused, I'm excited about my future and I do have a few little pearls of wisdom I have accumulated over the years:

It's okay to do life backwards, or sideways, or weirdly. It is, after all, your life.

I was married with a kid and in college around the age of 21 and a classmate was lamenting that her 19th birthday was approaching and said, "Nineteen is so boring. Nothing happens when you're 19."

"Sure it does," I piped up, "It's the year you get married and have a baby, and not necessarily in that order." She cracked up and declared it the funniest thing I had ever said, which was probably true.

I ended up quitting college soon thereafter and staying home with my daughter and the daughter to come, and even though I am now finally working towards finishing my degree after a 12 year hiatus, I don't regret giving up the entire decade of my 20s to motherhood.

Being a mom has taught me more than college or a career ever could have, and now here I am, relatively young and my whole life stretched out before me like an almost blank canvas. I plan to paint it up Jackson Pollock style.

Normal is relative.

It can't be defined, and hopefully neither can you. Own your quirks and oddities and let your freak flag fly. Be authentically weird and weirdly authentic.

I never felt like I fit in as a kid. Being half Latina and half Caucasian, I was too white for my urban neighborhood and too brown for my suburban private school. I've learned over the years to embrace both identities rather than one or the other, as well as embracing or rejecting other labels that do or don't feel right for me at any given time.

This is one thing I have really strived to teach my children--everyone is normal, and everyone has something to give to the world. My 9-year-old daughter came home from school recently and said, "Mom, a boy at school called me a lesbian... and I think maybe he meant it as an insult?" She was totally confounded as to why that would be insulting. Mom: 1. Bully: 0.

Life can be hard, and that's okay.

Sometimes I feel like I've had more than my fair share of hardship, but when I stop to remember how blessed and privileged I really am, it puts it all back into perspective. Things are rarely going to go the way we plan, so the options are to learn resiliency or quit making plans. I've had numerous health issues, have always been relatively (or very) poor, suffered a mild traumatic brain injury, yet I'm always determined to get up, dust myself off, and keep on moving. Which leads us to the next point--

Never take your friends and family for granted; help them when they need it, and allow them to help you in return.

That brain injury I mentioned? My family and friends saved my life after that. They brought my family meals, drove my kids to the places they needed to be, came and sat with me when I was in incredible pain and often feeling suicidal, and more. It was one of the biggest lessons I've ever received in terms of what community really means, and even three years out it still moves me to tears.

I am so blessed to have so many incredibly caring people in my life who see a need and act. That authenticity piece comes into play here too, though. People can't help you if they don't know you are in need. I tried desperately to power through my brain injury and as my condition rapidly deteriorated, it took swallowing my pride and gathering up the courage to say, "Hey guys, I'm not okay."

Love really is all you need.

And I'm not talking about the love that you get as much as the love that you give, and not so much the love you give to others but that which you give to yourself. More and more as I age I am realizing that it's all about the inward journey. When you love yourself it radiates outward. When you take care of yourself you are well equipped to take care of others. When you understand yourself it translates into empathy for what others are going through. So do whatever it is that floats your boat in terms of getting to know, understand, and love all the facets of you.

However, for those moments of doubt and despair that will surely come, I leave you with one last tidbit:

Dance it out.

It works. I swear.

p.s. If costumes are optional, wear one! #YOLO, #amirite?