This month brings me to my 39th lap around the sun.
I remember a time when that seemed like an ancient age, like when you heard your mom or dad say they were 39, and you thought that was incredibly old, and they basically were done having any fun in life.
I am not even in my early or mid-30s anymore. I am in my late 30s. And next year, I’ll be in an entirely new decade.
I always was so fearful of getting older. When I turned 25, I remember having a quarter-life crisis. I blamed my crazy behavior on it to anyone who would listen. I was kind of a disaster for a while, thinking that I was getting old. I never wanted to admit it at the time, but I was scared. I was afraid of growing old alone. I had not had a serious relationship that came even close to marriage. I acted as if it didn’t bother me by partying and working a lot. My career was just getting started.
I also was stubborn and bullheaded, and no one was going to give me advice on how to live my life. I held a ton of anxiety in those years about the fear of what others thought of me.
I remember my anxiety getting so bad that I had to see a therapist. I told him I was so fearful of going back home (this is when I lived in Madison, Wis., and my home town is Kieler, Wis.), that people would notice I had gained 10 pounds and talk behind my back that I was unmarried and a failure.
I would be so worried about others’ judgment of me that I would make myself sick. It was a rare occasion when I would even go back to visit because of this. I now look back and feel so sorry for 25-year-old me.
By the time 30 approached, I was so wrapped up in being the best at my job and making the most money possible that my early 30s were a bit of a blur. I always was working and never really feeling like I knew anything about the enjoyment of life. I always was trying to get ahead, never taking days off. Work was my life.
Why was I working so hard anyway? To make money to buy things I didn’t really need? I feel like my early 30s were kind of a waste because I was always looking for the next thing. I never was content.
Since I always was on the search for finding the thing that would fill my cup, I don’t think I ever had any bliss in my life. I never found happiness or abundance. Most of all, I had no peace of mind.
My anxiety was with me, as I was in constant worry of the opinion of others. Thus, the need to keep buying things.
Then, my mid-30s came, and I had four kids in two years. My ego started to leave me because I had no time for it.
I was in survival mode for a few years. It went so fast that I barely remember it now. We had to sell everything we worked so hard for to help pay bills because I had quit my job and became a stay-at-home mom.
To this day, I cannot believe that I quit the business I worked so hard to build up. But I would do it again in a heartbeat.
My anxiety also started to leave me in my mid-30s. Worrying about what others thought of me became insignificant, as I always was a mess with four kids younger than 4. I had no time to impress and no time to care what anyone thought.
I am unsure if the anxiety left me because my life changed so much or because of my age. I think as we get older, we just have this beautiful confidence that starts to come to surface in our lives. I think we are done with impressing others. We are over letting people in our lives who would judge us. We start to meet real friends because we are pickier with our choices. We are picky because we don’t have time for the nonsense. We left the drama in our 20s, where it belongs.
On my run recently, I was thinking about what I am going to do now. I will be 40 soon, and all of my kids will be in school full-time come fall. What am I going to do with my life? I almost felt scared, worried, nervous and anxious. I almost immediately stopped myself and said, “Nothing.” I am not going to do anything.
I have been working since I was 15. The past six years have been dedicated to living my life for my children while I watch my husband get to go to work every day. I have been kind of trapped in the house for six years being a full-time nurse, housekeeper, cook, teacher, farmer, gardener, you name it. I am going to take a year for me.
Why did I think I had to do something? Was I going back to that state, where I always am seeking the next thing?
If you live your life doing this, you are missing out on the real gift of life — the present moment. This is where you live. Take care of it. Love it. Live it to the fullest. When the time comes that you have to “do stuff,” you will. But as far as right now, that is all we have.
I am taking this last year in my 30s, and I am going to live and love every moment of just doing what makes me happy. For once in my life, I am good with that. I am good with just finding me again at 40.
Ladies, I know that if you are like me and you are in your 20s, you might not want to take advice, but let me offer it: Stop worrying so much about what anyone thinks. Stop worrying so much about your career, money, marriage, kids. Stop worrying, and live life as carefree as you can. Have fun. Do things that connect you to who you are. Find yourself.
If you are in your 30s, I get you. I know you are working your way up that ladder, but don’t forget what is important while doing it. Don’t forget to find time for yourself. If you are married, have children and are trying to work full-time, give yourself a break. You don’t have to do it all perfectly. Don’t live your days for what is next; live them for what is now. Your career always will find its way back to you. Don’t lose yourself in the business of busy.
And if you are with me in the almost-40s, let’s do this. I am excited to see what this next decade brings. The rules are only doing fun things that I want to do. I am done forcing anything to happen in my life. I will surround myself with only those worth my time and energy. I will find my bliss in every day life. My peace of mind will thrive on knowing that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
I will step into this next decade with a confidence like nothing before. I will spend endless hours with my best friend — myself.
Addie Graffin is a freelance columnist and blogger based in Platteville, Wis. Read more at www.HealthyHairdresserAddie.com.