Happy Birthday!

Today, I turn 35 years old. It hardly seems possible that I am 35. There are so many things that I have associated with being this age-ish that I just haven’t done or found… But at the same time, I don’t have issues with being 35. I don’t tell people I’m 29 (or younger). I don’t wish to be younger — unless, of course, I could be younger and wiser, in which case, I’ll take it.

Ten years ago, when I turned 25, I had many of the same thoughts: I thought my life would be somehow more put-together by then. I didn’t wish to be younger. I don’t remember if I was yet wise enough to wish to be wiser 🙂

I turned 25 in Y2K. I was beginning my second year of teaching in a small, rural (fairly well-off) town in northern NJ. I adored my job.

I was living with a wack-job roommate (didn’t last long), paying off credit card debt, paying for a car accident I’d had while uninsured. (Two lessons: don’t drive sleepy, and don’t drive uninsured.)

I had recently joined a gym and was spending a bit of time there — exercising often enough that I could shower there to keep my water bill a little lower.

My eating habits had improved slightly since college. I had lost a bit of weight from my peak — 20 pounds maybe? — and my clothes were loose.

I was in the midst of a string of … interesting boyfriends.

I was playing my trombone in a community band, taking private lessons in NYC, practicing 2 to 4 hours a day, starting to gig a little more regularly.

I had not yet run a 5K or bought a bicycle.

I had not yet had cancer.

Isn’t it amazing how much can change?

Sure, 10 years is a long time. There’s lots of room for change. There’s also lots of room to stagnate, to go deeper and deeper into a rut.

It would be easy still to be teaching in the same place, going to the same gym, gigging more. I’d have a lot more money and by now, no student loans.

Hopefully I would have moved on from the boyfriends.

A lot of things would have been much more stable, and I’d have a lot less debt and probably a lot more savings.

But at what cost?

Moving across the country alone was scary. But I learned and grew from it more than I could express here. I made great friends in grad school. Heck, I went to grad school. I lived for a while without a car — used my bike almost exclusively, though occasionally took the bus or bummed a ride. I have tried countless new foods. I became vegetarian. I got in the best shape of my life. I beat cancer. I’m teaching in the inner-city and do clinics on teaching elementary band. I became a trainer and opened my own business. I’ve become a slacker on the trombone 😉

Ruts are easy because they’re safe. But they’re boring. And the longer you’re in one, the harder it is to get out.

Please keep in mind: I didn’t decide one day that I was going to make massive changes to all aspects of my life. They happened gradually, for the most part, as I was ready for them. (Cancer wasn’t so gradual; nor was moving.)

The moral of the story: pick something and go with it. Stick to it. Make it part of the “new you.” Who knows what else will follow in its path?

I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years bring.

Where were you 10 years ago? Does looking at how life has changed make it easier for you to believe in your power to change yourself?

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Michelle on 14 October 2010 at 05:50

    Happy Birthday, my friend. While I wouldn’t wish what you and I have been through on anyone, I think it’s made us different people (changed our views on things, certainly) and because of both your move and your cancer, we got the opportunity to meet and become friends. And, for that, I’m grateful.

    Here’s to the next 10 years – I can’t wait. 🙂

    • Indeed, many good things have happened that wouldn’t have happened without the cancer. Would I “do” it again (as if I chose it the first time!)? Not sure. But there is much good that has come from it, for which I am grateful as well 🙂

  2. Happy Birthday 🙂

    Amazing journey you’ve had, that’s for sure. I am so happy it turned out nicely.

    10 years ago .. I was still working as a radio DJ and haven’t yet met my current love. I was actually dating a “rich” guy, tall, handsome, perfect. The problem with him was he just wasn’t ready to take me as a “whole” (was a student, worked full time and also practiced karate), asked me to marry him and ditch it all for him. You can guess the end.

    10 years from then …

    I have the perfect man now who’s learnt to accept me as I am. He’s the one who drove me to eant more and work more, to never ignore my career and be ready to make the next step. I am currently working as a freelancer web designer, since the radio job disappeared last year and any other employment opportunities would mean 4 times less money than I currently make.

    We travel a lot, we get along perfectly, I know what I want from my life and have returned to my karate classes too, after 5 years of not having the time to train (my radio show was in the evening, at the same time with the classes).

    Interesting enough, I haven’t had cancer, just a huge scare last year (fortunately my biopsy came “clean”, so my breast lumps are not cancer) and my birthday is 3 days from now. I’ll be 32 😉

    • Thanks for sharing a bit of your story! I am always fascinated by where people have been and where they’re headed — or at least, where they’re planning to go.

      Thank goodness your lumps were just lumps!

      Happy birthday early 🙂

  3. […] Happy Birthday – Heather turned 35 these days. This is a “let’s see how I’ve done so far” article that’s really worth reading. It’s always good for us to just stand and think of where we’ve started years ago and realized how far we’ve come. Beats any therapy. […]

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