From 30 to 40: What a Ride!

I write or edit at least one blog nearly every day of the work week. But it’s been a long time since I wrote a blog of my own. My 40th birthday seems like the perfect occasion to sit down and write.

The Big 4-0. It’s an impactful birthday. A milestone. A day many people dread. I’m not dreading it; I’ve been praying for God to help me truly celebrate myself and all the blessings I have had in these past 40 years.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been pausing a lot to think about my life. The other day, I started thinking about my 30th birthday and how quickly time seems to have passed since then. But while time has soared by, the last 10 years have been some of the most memorable of my life.

That’s both good and bad.

In my early 30s, I found my groove as a professional. I turned my love of writing and reading into a career, and I landed what I thought was my dream job.

Two years later, that dream came crashing down. I lost the job I loved dearly, with days spent going to bat for people I truly valued and loved. I had no idea what was next—couldn’t even see past the loss.

What I found was that the people in my life who mean the most stepped up to support me. My sister literally came to my side. I have never been as proud of my sister as I was that day, and I will never forget it. She got a substitute for her class of first graders, and she drove from Knoxville to Chattanooga. Not a single hesitation.

Over the next few months after that, I discovered that I could make a go at writing, editing, and strategizing on a freelance basis. Five years later, the #freelancelife is still going strong. Last year was by far my most successful, as weird as the pandemic year was. And it turns out that being self-employed and being able to pick and choose meaningful work is actually my dream job.

A couple years later, a different part of my world crumbled. The person who had been my confidant, my best friend, my supporter, and my encourager for nearly my entire adult life suddenly wasn’t a part of my life anymore.

This wasn’t a loss I shared with others. I simply couldn’t. But people in my life probably recognized that I was shaken, that I wasn’t the same.

Four years later, that’s still the case. They say that each day, loss hurts a little less. That you forget it a little more. Maybe that’s somewhat true. But I’m a different person now than I was then. I still miss having someone ever-present in my life, someone to ask me each day how I am and help to lift me up when I lack confidence in myself. If I stop to think about it, I still crumble.

But I’m alive and kicking. And though I may never understand, I take solace in this quote I share on a certain day each year, “Never be ashamed of how deeply and passionately you loved someone who destroyed you, because destroying things is just who they are…but loving things deeply and passionately is who you are.”

I am far from perfect. I am a work in progress. But if there’s one thing I take immense pride in, it’s that I am intensely loyal and when I love, I LOVE.

My late 30s taught me that I am way stronger than I could ever have imagined. I’ve picked up after loss and carved out a successful professional life. I’ve picked up after loss and learned some invaluable lessons about taking care of myself.

I’m also physically stronger than I ever knew. In my mid-30s, I found that I actually like exercise. Weird, right? These days, moving and challenging my body comes as naturally as breathing. When I don’t do it, my day feels strange. While the COVID-19 pandemic (and the general ick factor of gyms in a COVID-19 hotspot) derailed my strength a bit, in the before times, I squatted up to 215 pounds. The 30-year-old me would never have imagined!

Exercise is a big part of my routine and a key part of how I’ve learned to manage an anxiety disorder. Anxiety isn’t easy, and keeping it in check is an everyday process. I’ve learned that anxiety management for me requires a steady dose of routine, and gaining the skills to practice meaningful self-care was a big step for me in these last 10 years.

My 30s also brought me a lesson about family. I always imagined that I would marry early, that I would have babies. My dreams about that have not come true. Sometimes, I find myself thinking it’s a bit sad that the people I spend the most time with are my parents and my sister’s little family. That I don’t have my own little family, or someone to love me.

But then I’m brought back to the reality that my family is the best. That even if I could, I wouldn’t choose to be elsewhere. That there’s truly no better place in this world than surrounded by their love. Maybe that’s the most valuable lesson I’ve learned.

And heavens knows, we can’t forget the biggest blessing God gave me in the last 10 years: my niece! I find myself looking at her sometimes and wondering how we ever lived without her. She’s full of sass, and she puts the sunshine in nearly every one of my days. Being able to spend so much time watching her grow because I am self-employed now makes losing my job six years ago worth the pain.

What’s ahead for 40 and beyond? I have no idea! I plan to celebrate the “year of 40,” for, yes, the entire year. I don’t know what that involves quite yet, but there will be a lot of indulging myself and spending time adventuring with the people who mean the most. A little bit of Disney magic, a dose or two of Florida sun, Amy Grant and Vince Gill at the Ryman, and lots of Lady Vol basketball are first up in the rotation.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for indulging me! And more than that, thank you for loving me and playing a part of this thing called life.

Here’s to another 40 years…

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