The Trapeze

Reflections on my last day as a 38 year-old fabulous, kick-ass boss of my life, captain of my soul.

In a few hours, I will be 39. It will be the last year in my thirties. Oh boy, am I in a rollercoaster of emotions. I started having short bursts of tears about 5 hours ago.

I spent the whole day sleeping, inception levels. I was dreaming within a dream within a dream. I was in San Francisco, then UK, then I “woke up” and I was somewhere else but the rest I cannot remember. I must have been so exhausted, even the noise of 10 people cramped in my house could not shake me. When I did wake up, I felt so refreshed. It was a lot like when I slept for 9 hours straight on a 12-hour flight to London.

I finally made it to the gym and spent about an hour on a bike while watching Private Eyes. So glad Matt and Angie are back!

Now I am seated at a local Dunkin’ Donuts having some much deserved coffee and a rare treat of choco butternut.

To say the least, my thirties has been the most eventful, crazy, happy, sad, adventurous, wonderful, amazing, depressing and lesson-filled years of my life. I was actually out in the real world!

My thirties is when I got my heart broken the most. I look back and think about my dating history. It’s practically non-existent by the way, but those times I did, it was fun and exciting and full of hope. Eventually, they all didn’t work out, but I am all the wiser and definitely relieved that I did not get married or have children with any of them. Realizing how wrong they were for me was in hindsight (just like any other bad decision) and I am glad they are all in the past. I get asked a lot when I am getting married or when I am having children. When, not if. That’s how society rolls. I don’t know the answer. I am still open to both, provided I don’t have to swipe in an app to make them possible.

My thirties is also when my professional career took off. I graduated so late from college I thought I wasn’t going to make it. My mother thought otherwise and she was the one who pushed me and made sure I did. I joined the corporate world in 2005 and has been living in it since. I have had the privilege of meeting so many interesting and brilliant people who believed in me and paved the way to where I am now. I have also had the privilege of experiencing really trying times in my career but those pale in comparison to the many chances I was given to bounce back. In this world, I have proven that no one is an island. A friend once said to me, “Stop giving someone credit for your achievements. They are yours and yours alone.” I did not say anything but I disagree. I know what I bring to the table. On the other hand, you can be as smart and great at what you do, but if no one believes in you, I doubt you’ll go very far. I am very lucky to have been able to show what I can do and to have had people who knew and gave me due credit.

My thirties is when I started thinking more about my mortality and that time really is short. Three years ago, before I went on a trip to Seoul, I had pain on my right breast. I decided to visit my gynecologist who felt a lump and had me undergo an ultrasound. A mammogram is not recommended for my age yet, so ultrasound would be the way to go. The good news, it was benign and I have a condition common to women my age. I was referred to a breast surgeon who helped me understand what I had and she has been monitoring me for the last 3 years. The first time I underwent a breast ultrasound felt like I was drowning. I couldn’t breathe and I thought, if this is not cancer, I will instead have a heart attack. So now, I get into waves of fear and calm for every year that I have to undergo this exam. I could not be certain of what is worse – the unknown or knowing. Every negative result I end up crying buckets and just feel as if my heart would burst for being so grateful to be alive.

My thirties witnessed how our family grew from 7 to 14. Count in 3 sisters-in-law and 4 nieces in the last 7 years. A lot of changes happened in our family, but they were all small miracles and I am glad to have witnessed the birth of our future generation. It’s definitely filled with women and I pray that they grow up to make their own marks in the world.

In my thirties, I found myself more frequently reevaluating friendships, relationships, personal goals, the meaning of happiness and success. Pretty much an evaluation of everything I ever stood or hoped for. I thought I would have been married with kids before 30, but I wasn’t. I went into relationships even when each was pretty much wrapped in a big, red flag because I was scared time would pass me by and having no man is a failure. I treated work as if it were the reason for living, at one time spending 16-hour days at the office. I was like this until someone cared enough to force me to realize work is a never ending battle. Work is also where you can be sure you will not please everyone, so why kill yourself trying? The same applies to friendships. I have been thinking about a few people who I have considered to be really good friends, but I realize it was a one way street. I always felt like an afterthought to them. I finally acknowledged this and I’ve decided I matter to the right people. That should be enough. There is no need to force friendships that are not there.

Somewhere along my thirties, my idea of success changed from having as many new clothes as possible, pairs of shoes, a car and getting promoted as fast as possible. Now, success means being able to sleep soundly at night, getting enough rest on weekends and being able to exercise. When I get back to my healthy weight and body fat percentage, that would be like conquering Mt. Everest! There have been some opportunities for promotion, but my idea of success now is lower cortisol levels. I don’t mind staying a manager for a while if it means less negative stress. I have KonMaried the shit out of my home for the last couple of months as I can no longer tolerate too much material possession. I’d much rather spark other people’s joy with them rather than let them gather dust.

My whole idea of the future is changing. I see freedom. Being single and childless at this age means a whole world of possibilities. I get to travel a lot, which I love and won’t give up ever. I see reinvention. I honestly don’t see myself climbing the corporate ladder anymore. I see me catching a trapeze from this point and crossing over to the other side, landing on my feet. I’ll probably wobble a bit, but I will find my balance after. I see genuine relationships. It is because I will only make time for those that are. Why waste time and effort for anything less? It’s like accepting you don’t deserve the best. I see more resilience. I did not come this far in life if I wasn’t resilient to begin with. I see someone who is more confident and sure of her choices in life and will not apologize for them. I see me celebrating me! I borrow this quote from one of my favorite Miss Universes ever, Sushmita Sen, “Celebrating you has to come from you first. Why wait for someone else to celebrate you?”

It’s funny how we normally dread getting older. Some invent ways to say their age without seeming “old”. Some say deprecating things about getting older, usually implying it as an unfortunate situation. A friend just joked if I can finally watch a movie for free. This is a senior citizen benefit. I told him I have a long way to go, but if I do, I should only be so lucky. I should definitely be so grateful.

So, here’s to aging like fine wine. Here’s to taking less crap, and not settling for scrap. Cheers to 39!

CG

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