Today I turn thirty-seven years old. Thirty-seven is not a milestone birthday. It’s not like 25 or 30 or 40. But something about thirty-seven feels like a milestone for me.
Maybe it’s because I have turned a corner with both kids in school, and I’m working from home. Maybe it’s because I can practice yoga twice a week. I don’t know. But I do know that I feel more contentment and peace than I have in a long, long time.
I mean not perfect contentment that I imagine I would feel if I were chanting ohm on a secluded mountaintop. More like less angst-y and restless.
I remember when I started my third decade, I spend quite a few nights waking up and running to the bathroom to dry heave and cry. At first I thought I had the flu or maybe pregnant.
When neither turned out to be true, I decided maybe I was unhappy. But how could I be unhappy? I was happily married and had a beautiful daughter who was deliciously adorable at two years old.
When I quieted my mind and clocked some serious time at my therapist’s office, I came to the conclusion that I was just letting in too much – too many opinions of others, too many judgments, too many self-harming comments. I couldn’t honor these outside forces and still have enough energy to raise Marie.
So I started to say no to things that made me feel bad. I said no to thing that made my gut red hot with dread. I said no to things that made me feel drained and sad. This was not easy at all. I mean, saying no kind of goes again first-born daughter code. There were times when I think it would have been easier to join the witness protection program than face my fears of letting anyone down as I decided to live life on my terms.
Which is what was the stem of all my itchy, uncomfortable feelings of going with a flow that was not meant for me. So little by little, I created something I had never before experienced: personal boundaries.
I didn’t have the language to explain this transformation until I heard Elizabeth Gilbert speakat Oprah’s Life You Want Weekend. She called her journey a Quest and talked about how it started with crying on the bathroom floor, knowing that she was not on her right path. Which led her on journey to answer the question: What have I come here to do with my life?
Wait - there was a name for this? A Quest?! I thought I was just going about my business trying to find some way to make sure I didn’t implode while raising my daughter. But yes, when she explained exactly what a Quest is, I was indeed on one of my own.
She talked about how The Quest is filled with self-doubt and uncertainty that there will be trials, but ultimately when finished, fear is shed.
In fact, all the difficulties were inevitable. Elizabeth shared that she used to pray for changes in her life, but without all the mess and upheaval.
And with that, the past seven years of my life were validated. I guess I had the preconceived notion that personal transformation would be a blissful journey. Yes, I was making changes that felt like were aligned with who I really was meant to be, but shit, it was hard. And messy. And uncomfortable.
But it would have been more uncomfortable to stay and cry and dry heave and live a life on a path that was not for me than to figure out how I fit in this world.
So I am going to celebrate this non-milestone milestone birthday. With cake. Champagne. Family. Food.
I did it. I am on My Quest. And even thought it’s not easy, it feels pretty damn good.