*Warning! Some naughty language ahead.
I grew up surrounded by women who chose to, “stop aging” when they hit 29.
I was taught to believe it was rude to ask a grown woman how many years she has been rewarded with so far in this life. I find this interesting, a society that has been taught not to discuss the topic of death and dying, yet we are also afraid to discuss aging. If we are all so afraid to die, one would think we would be celebrating with each new year we are gifted with, no matter how many years we have been living.
I subsequently fell into this mindset in my early 20s. Believing that life in your 20s, specifically the early years, were simply as good as it was ever going to get. I believed that everything after 30 would start to plummet downhill.
Graduate from college. Get your dream job. Fall in love and get married. Buy a house and start filling it with kids. That’s what was planned for us. Not necessarily in that order, however, society says that if you hit 30 and you haven’t obtained at least four-out-of-six of these expectations, then you are behind. They will tell you that you have failed this cookie-cutter plan, a plan that was created for you without your consent.
When I turned 26, I thought I was on track for this idea of what life was supposed to be. I was a Registered Nurse, working what I thought to be my forever job and I was in love with someone that I assumed I would eventually purchase a house with and start making babies. But at the end of the day, it still didn’t feel right. No matter how much I tried to see all the great things I had been blessed with, I wasn’t finding peace in the thought of proceeding on this path forever. I was confused and lost. If I was on track to achieve all that was planned out for me, then why wasn’t I happy?
So I made a drastic change. I chose to end a relationship that I believed was no longer serving either of us in a positive way. I sold most of what I owned and put the rest in boxes. I bought a one-way ticket to Thailand and ended up living in India for nearly three years.
When I tell people this story, I am often told, “You are brave, I could never travel alone.” So let me be very clear with you all, this was the scariest thing I have ever done. I’ll never forget sitting alone in the O’Hare Airport waiting for my flight, feeling my heart slam itself against my chest over and over again. I was questioning every life decision I had ever made up until that point. I remember thinking, “What in the actual fuck have I done?”
I pulled out my bottle of lavender oil, hoping it would calm my nerves but my shaky hands proceeded to spill almost the entire bottle all over me. At least myself and everyone around me on the plane slept well due to the overly powerful aroma of lavender.
The point of this story is not to go into the details of my three years in India and Southeast Asia. I am here to remind you that some of the scariest things you will ever choose to do may end up having the biggest impact on your journey. Many people tried to let their own fears get in my way and tried to stop me from going. Some of them even shook their heads at me and called me stupid for dreaming so big. Others told me, I was a woman and who was I to think I could go at this all alone? But I kept going because I believed (and still believe) that all of the magic in this world will happen when you step out of your comfort zone and into the unknown. Because as long as we are stuck in this cycle of comfortability, nothing will ever change.
Was my time overseas all rainbows and butterflies? Hell no! I experienced some of the hardest days of my life in countries where I arrived not knowing a single soul. But each of those days helped me to grow, to truly see myself, and most importantly to love myself and what I have to offer this world. Because when you have no one to rely on but yourself, you start to see what a powerful force you are. When there is no one standing there to catch you when you fall, you start to find out what you have always been capable of had you only found the courage to take a step outside of the lines of societal norms.
So what does this have to do with growing up around people who were ashamed to share their age?
I am a 30-year-old woman, single with no kids, and for the first time in my life, I am unapologetically myself. And I absolutely love the woman I see looking back at me when I gaze into the mirror. Sure, there are areas within myself where I would still like to see improvement. And I believe there always will be as I continue through this life. But I know now that all things are possible so long as I keep myself accountable for the happiness I seek in and around my life.
I am grateful that if I should so choose to continue on the path of finding my soul mate, buying a house, and jumping on board the baby-making business, like most people passing by expect of me, that I will not resent that life. Because it will be a life that I have chosen for myself. A decision that may not have come so easily had I not taken time to find myself first.
We should be celebrating each and every new year we are gifted with! Some of us left this earth long before they even got to enjoy their 20s or 30s. So shout your age from the rooftop ladies! Because like fine wine and fancy cheese, I truly believe if we allow ourselves, us women become more powerful, resilient, and beautiful as we age.
So no matter what path you should choose, I hope you own the choices you make. Don’t be afraid to pave your own path and color outside the lines as you go.