Thirty-five is a good age to celebrate for most woman… generally speaking. I turned 35 years old this week and I didn’t shed a tear, at least not literally anyway. I think I started getting grumpier and grumpier after 28 and by the time 31 came around I just stopped recognizing my birthday as a day worth celebrating.
But this year, turning 35 gave me new meaning. I gave it a lot of thought in the weeks approaching my birthday and I couldn’t help but realize that whether it’s a birthday or not, I am at a place in my life that is worth celebrating. I’m not writing this to boast about “my good life” but rather to give myself perspective.
Growing up, I had very little guidance from my parents. Don’t get me wrong, they were wonderful parents but like most new Asian immigrants, their immediate goals were to find a job, work hard and earn money to reach the next step of Maslow’s hierarchy. Play time with their child (me), creating dialogue and establishing a strong “Gilmore Girls” type of relationship was not on their To Do list at all. The teachings (more like demands) I received from them consistently were: get your education to find a good job; seek help if you need; save money and don’t be a liability; and put yourself in a position where you don’t need to rely on others. All very good tips for a six-year old girl and a sixteen-year old girl!
What I really needed was to learn about myself. What did I like and dislike, why? What are my strengths and weaknesses, why? What am I like? What is my personality? Who am I? How can I hone what I have to achieve that level of self-sustainability in life that they so desire? Honestly, I had no clue and I had to figure it out all on my own growing up, which really scared me in my high school and undergrad days because if I didn’t know myself THAT well then I run the risk of changing my path in school, switching careers and that means I failed the first time around (also a big no-no in the Asian culture, by the way.)!
As I began to reflect on my “old age” when March came and tried to be objective. I realized that 35 really is a good age to celebrate for me. I mean, school’s done and I either have some sort of career established or a relatively decent job that I enjoy most days. I have a permanent home and a family. My likes and dislikes are firmly established by now. My tastes, preferences and what I find comfort in are all things that I know NOW compared to when I was in my twenties and would continue to try things out. At this age, I’m pretty “set” in life.
What I learned HARD by 35 is there really is no more invincibility. Two natural births later, my age is showing and my body’s resiliency is slowing. I will need to work for it and work at it. I’ve also learned how important it is to be direct and speak up when needed, or, when possible, which leads me to another important lesson, to have no regrets. There have been so many times where I didn’t voice my concerns, discomforts or opinions and have missed out on opportunities or was dragged into doing something I didn’t want to do. I hated that feeling. Lastly, my last lesson and will continue to be a lesson in later years is to seize the day. I still have trouble doing it because I find it very hard to do. I’m always reflecting on the past or thinking forward in the future. Then I regret not living in the moment.
Turning back to 25 and what I had then… it really wasn’t much. Fresh out of school and looking for a job, finally landing that first full-time job only to find that it sucked. There was a newfound level of freedom back then but also a lot of unknowns and undecided factors. And since I’m a planner, I was easily started when the tiniest incident did not happen meet my expectations and I had to constantly re-evaluate and re-establish the plan inside my head. I think what the 35-year old me would tell the 25-year old me, hypothetically, is this… You’re doing great. Keep up with the spirit and perseverance, and things will work out the way they should. You’ll do fine.
Just right now, I’m wondering what 40 and 45 will be like… but I’m in no rush to find out.