I haven't exactly written one to myself yet.
I think it's time.
You only turn 40 once, right?
Here goes nothing...
(Oh, and for the record, I struggled with the form of this letter endlessly. Do you write a letter to yourself in the first person, the third person? Why is this so weird? Why do I over think everything?)
That number once seemed like it was so far away, distant and strange. Over there somewhere, associated with people who were so much older than I was.
Than I am now.
Age has never really been something that bothered me, at least not once I was past the part of life where we wanted to be older, not younger. I was always one of the youngest people in my class, in my grade, in my group of friends. I was generally the last one legally able to do all the things tied to minimum ages.
That phase of my life, the wanting to be older part, has been over for a while now though. These days, I actually enjoy being the youngest one because no matter what else I might have in common with my former classmates and most of my friends, I'm almost always the youngest one.
It has its advantages.
It's funny to me that this past year was the one where I started working in an industry where I'm almost always the oldest one around. I feel like I'm a good decade older than most of the people I work with. The fellow employees who were tasked with auditioning me and training me were almost all wee babes. Which is a strange dynamic, you know? Being taught how to do all the things by people who were still losing teeth when you got married. It's weird.
Last week, I actually got into a bit of an argument with some people at work, because they were insisting that I wasn't actually going to be 40. I had to be like 32 or something. Nope. I have a kid going on college tours. Just because I also have a 2 year old and work in a bar and spend inordinate amounts of time on my playlists doesn't mean that I'm not actually deep into middle age.
And I'm fine with it.
When I look back on my life up until this point, there are a few enormous disappointments, sure. That career I was supposed to pursue. The life I was supposed to live. The person I was supposed to be. I've mostly gotten over all that, made my peace with the way things are as opposed to the way I thought they'd be. As much as planning is a useful tool in life, it's not a guarantee, and there's something to be said for the character building that comes from failing completely.
Let's just say I have abundant character. Heaps of it.
This last year has been a transitional one for me. Not just because of the whole impending mortality thing, but because I've really started to find that peace within myself. Acceptance can be a real asshole sometimes, but once you get there, things work themselves out much easier.
I've become more honest with myself, and consequently with everyone around me, of late. I'd say it's for the better, even though I know that there are people who don't like this less polished and refined version of me.
I'm more raw. I'm more likely to put myself out there. I'm more determined to kick ass at the things I commit to. I'm more vulnerable. I'm more passionate.
That's all resulted in me losing a lot of friends. And that's fine.
I'm not everyone's cup of tea, and if you don't want to sit with me, I'm not about to try and convince you why you should.
I'm perfectly content hanging out by myself anyway. Always was.
I just used to try and convince myself that I needed to do the things other people wanted me to do because I was supposed to, and I don't do that anymore.
I'm too old for that shit.
And I'm way too fucking busy.
(And before anyone starts in on me with links to some think piece about the glorification of busy, it is not that at all. I'm just a mother of five who works and teaches and runs support groups and plans fundraisers and does advocacy work and juggles most of it most of the time and there isn't a whole lot left at the end of the day. And this isn't me complaining, either. I'm lucky to have the life I do. I'm just explaining things. Also when did the internet become such a hole that it requires me to write these stupid disclaimers every time I write about myself anymore? Never mind do not answer that.)
I'm more comfortable in the skin I wear these days.
I'm not out to prove anything to anyone.
In the last year, I did a few things that scared the crap out of me. One of them was taking this weird job in the first place. I mean, honestly. Why would a person with off the charts anxiety deliberately want to stand up in front of strangers all the time with a microphone? I know, I know. It seems counter-intuitive. I know. It makes sense though, for me. As introverted as I am, I know that the only way I'll deal with other people out there in the universe is to force myself to do it...and I'm actually really good at it once I kick my own ass to get started.
I know my issues.
I know how to force myself to deal with them.
That's part of the wisdom of being my age, I suppose.
I went to a conference to meet a bunch of other warrior moms last year. Some of them "knew" me from this, the blog. My writing. I've been doing this over eight years now and I don't think it will ever not be weird for me, this knowing that other people out there in the world read my words. I mean, I know they do and I want them to and I invite them to and I thank them for doing it...but there's nothing like meeting a person I've never actually met and having them feel like they sort-of know me. It's. Well. Weird.
Good weird. But still weird.
The conference, though. I still haven't written about it, primarily because I'm still processing it myself. I had a long, awful time with postpartum depression. Years. Really, over a decade now. There are things that I'm still not really comprehending about my experience with it, things I haven't entirely forgiven myself for, things I wish that I could go back and do over. Things that I wish I could tell a younger version of myself.
But then I wouldn't be me now. I wouldn't be here, and I wouldn't have gone there.
And this is part of who I am now.
I am the mom who lived in her own personal hell alone for over a year before she told anyone. Who still can't really go back to that time because it's blocked from her memories.
And I'm the woman now who knows that the only thing that saved my life then, and the only thing that has saved it several times since then is speaking about the struggles aloud.
I have to tell people.
I have to stand in my truth and shout it to the world. I have to for my sanity, and I have to so that whoever else is out here in the darkness with me knows that they aren't alone.
While we're on the subject of truth...
I almost checked myself into the hospital last month.
Happy birthday to me.
I narrowly avoided doing so because I reached out to the people I trust and I let them in, and that little crack in the doorway let in a sliver of light and I fumbled in the darkness and found a hand.
And so I open the door for others and I reach out a hand to them.
And I'll keep doing it.
I know that I wouldn't be here, I know that I wouldn't be this version of myself had it not been for all of the things I've been though, all the things I still deal with now.
I wouldn't say I am thankful for my struggles per se, but I know that if I wear them all on my sleeve, they will interlock with one another and form a suit of armor.
That suit of armor does two things.
It protects me.
I urges me back into battle for others.
So, self...keep on doing what you're doing.
Help save others.
Be the person that superhero tattoo on your arm says you are.
Maybe give yourself a break occasionally...