Tuesday, May 24, 2011

On My 31st Birthday

I usually don't see birthdays as a time for annual reflection, possibly because the march of time hasn't ever really bothered me and possibly also because I do my annual self-checks at the Jewish New Years. I do however, love birthday parties. However, this year things have all become a bit muddled. I arrived back from NYC at about 2am this morning, so I'm too exhausted from burning the NYC candle at both ends to be excited about my birthday today. I'm too overwhelmed after the wedding to plan another big party, so a quiet special dinner for two sounds just about perfect for a birthday celebration (sometime in, um, June. When we have time.) And this year,  after the wedding upheaval, I'm finding myself at a major transitional point, so the birthday has inspired some deep musings as I grapple with the "what nexts" of my life.  

It's been about a month and a half since our wedding. I've already spent quite a bit of time frolicking in the wedding memories. But now that I've poured through our professional and friend photos about 800 times, I'm starting to tuck them away as happy memories. The honeymoon feelings have faded with the realities of long workweeks. I've outlined or posted a lot of the important recaps already, we're already talking about which photos to frame, and I can feel myself getting close to wrapping things up. To a sense of completion with this wedding. And I'm ready. I've been thinking about weddings since 2008, when it became clear that Jason and I were going to get married and I got a bit panicky about What It All Meant (and What It Would Cost.) I started writing this blog in August 2009, when we actually got engaged. It's now May of 2011.

I am so ready to move on.

But if I'm honest, part of me is also scared. Terrified of these next steps. Of the promises I've made to myself about what I want to accomplish, now that I have time again. Of the things I want to learn. Of who I want to be. We set so many goals on our honeymoon. I set so many goals for myself throughout this engagement, procrastinating until "after the wedding." And suddenly, it's after the wedding, and I need to face myself. I need to learn how to conquer new challenges. I need to get comfortable with discomfort again.

The wedding, although it was hard work, became easy to navigate mentally. I learned about weddings. I sorted through my discomfort with unfamiliar tasks (merging and building families, wedding logistics, fashion and personal style) and rose to the occasion. I've always had vague dreams of "becoming a writer" (ha. Like it just happens and you "become" a writer) and committed myself to writing in this space, which was easy when writing had a purpose and theme (navigating the crazy world of weddings and marriage) and a community of readers navigating the same crazy wedding transition.  

But weddings don't interest me as a long-term topic of conversation, for my life or my blog. I think I will always find weddings fascinating, both because my personal process has been life-altering (in important and teeny ways) and because lifecycle events are compelling in and of themselves. Weddings say something about a culture. The range of weddings and the challenges associated with authenticity and expectation has made me more closely examine my feminism, my understanding of class, the complex business of weddings, the women entrepreneurs powering those businesses, the way the internet is changing expectations about weddings and creating new ones, the mores of various subcultures, and the conflicting messages of our culture at large.

See? I can talk to you about weddings for hours in ways that don't reference my own and have nothing to do with gushing over designer dresses. I understand this world. I've conquered this challenge. I'm ready to move on.

But move on to what? That's where the discomfort begins. I have some ideas about directions I  want to pursue with the blog and, more importantly, with my life. I'm ready to make a big push in my career, where I've been treading water as I planned this wedding and dove into this blog. But I want more. More from life. More from my career. More from this blog. I'm stepping out of my comfort zone. Intellectually, I know I can handle it. I handled weddings and I'll handle and excel at something else. But onto what? I'm a little terrified.

I'm not the woman I want to be. Not by a long shot. I need to get serious about my career, which demands some real investments in time management, productivity skills, and networking in a male-dominated field (by the way, that sort of networking is really hard and I need to just deal with it). I want to get serious about my health, which requires a lot more meal planning and early morning exercise than I my night-owl, lazy-girl tendencies appreciate. I want to read again, engaging again in the nerdy news and economics sources I used to love and in fiction that I've forgotten. I want to scheme about how Jason and I can live abroad for a year (in the far-off future.) I want to scheme about near-term trips (we're tentatively planning a trip to Cambodia in 2013.) I want to get better about finances, because somehow the wedding made me much looser with all my spending, and not just wedding-related expenses. I want to save up a ton of money to prepare for the several-years-from-now future baby. I want to learn about how to invest in a way that feels comfortable to me. I want to develop a real sense of personal style that feels authentic, fun, and professional (when necessary) so people stop mistaking me for 25 (My face is very young looking so, even when I wear a great suit, I get dismissed as a 25 year old playing dress up. Really and truly). I want to make our apartment more stylish and cozy. I want to learn about photography. I want to write a book. I want to throw regular dinner parties. I want more woman-friend time.

Apparently, I want a lot. So I clearly have to add one more thing to the list: I want to become comfortable with NOT having it all and accepting that "having it all" is a myth, albeit a powerful myth that creates a lot of unique pressures and aspirations for women and (eventually, for me) mothers*.

So, as I turn 31, I'm thinking a lot about the woman I want to be and the life I want to build. And I get the sense that many of you are going through the same challenges and fighting against the pressures/pull of that have-it-all same myth.  And I think it's important to talk about these things. About the hard stuff and the fun stuff and about how imperfectly we're stumbling forward on these journeys. My apartment doesn't look like Apartment Therapy and the idea of homeownership in Los Angeles is so laughable that it's not even worth daydreaming about. My cooking isn't Smitten Kitchen worthy and I don't always make it to the farmer's market. I am not remotely cool enough to even know the fancy fashion/style blogs and I'm starting to wade around Corporette as I figure out my professional appearance. But I'm trying. And often I'm failing. And that's okay, because I think it's important to be honest about it and to find ways to laugh.

I think this is the direction I want to take the blog. A figuring-it-out lifeblog instead of a prescriptive or aspirational lifeblog/styleblog/finance blog. I'm not very interested in opening up my marriage for the internet, and I really feel like the best part of this wedding blog was sharing the journey of it all. And I'm still on a shared journey with many of you, namely navigating adulthood and constantly striving to be a better and more authentic person. I'm still working out the blog (and life) format. I'm still a bit terrified of what happens with the first post-wedding-recap, new life post. I'm scared enough that I haven't written anything yet. But it's my birthday today and it's the start of a new year and new challenges. It's time to get off my bum and jump in. 

So here's to a year of jumping in, heartfirst. Because my head is already there, and now it's about finding that spark of emotional fire in the everyday stumbles of life. I'm looking forward to it, and to hopefully some of you will be as enthusiastic about the life-stumbles as you were about the wedding-stumbles too.



*Sorry Mom, but I'm not planning on babies yet.  I'm focusing on becoming the woman I want to be first, before I jump into the additional challenges of motherhood. But I'm 31 now. So I'm obviously thinking about it.

21 comments:

  1. You've been on my wedding blogroll for a long time, and I've never piped up, but wanted to let you know how much your writing has meant to me, both as a fellow about-to-be-married (3 weeks to go for me!), and as a figuring-stuff-out gal. I'm stoked to see where you take all this, as it's inspiration for me to kick my own blog into shape!

    I'm also trying to figure out personal fashion stuff, and can totally recommend Already Pretty (http://www.alreadypretty.com/) - absolutely wonderful wonderful blog. :) Enjoy!

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  2. Word! Whatever you decide to do, I'll keep reading.

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  3. First off: Happy 31st Birthday!!

    Also, you know I'll still be around. I'm even more excited about the stumbling-through-life issues than the wedding conundrums, now that we're closing in on our 1 year anniversary. It's funny how fast the trauma of wedding planning begins to recede... in a good way, though.

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  4. Happy birthday! Also, wonderful post. I was talking with a friend about my post-wedding plans for my own blog and I said something along these lines, only less articulate. So it looks like my blog will continue to be a less articulate imitator of yours. And I'm totally fine with that.

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  5. Happy birthday!

    I love the figuring it out stuff. Your wisdom and humor and wonderful voice will be priceless for that.

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  6. Happy birthday!

    This post was just jammed packed. Where do I start? I'm really excited to read about you taking on adult life and the myth that women can have it all. Your writing is so intelligent and I'm glad to follow your process. Because that's what life is, a constant process. Aspirational blogs are hard to swallow because they are so hard to relate to.

    And I do relate when it comes to being so sick of weddings and feeling ready to move on. My wedding is 41 days out, but I can't wait to have it behind me and have some closure. I've been thinking about weddings since 2008 as well.

    I'm excited that we will both be tackling our careers post wedding and navigating the adult world. I'm so happy to have found you on this big, wide internet.

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  7. Happy Birthday! I loved your blog when I was planning our wedding (last October) and now after our wedding, enjoy it for insight/commentary on balancing a relationship with work (with a wedding as a unifying theme). I'm looking forward to the new direction as you put into words what I too am trying to figure out.

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  8. Happy Birthday!

    I've had this weird understanding that life doesn't really start until we're 32. 31 is the beginning of getting all your pieces into place. You have a very exciting year ahead, and an even more exciting rest of your life! We will be here, cheerleading along the way. <3

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  9. @Amanda - eek! three weeks! congrats! And thanks for your words of support and for the style link. Very helpful as I start to search for new reading.

    @robin - I'm not seriously responding to the second part of what you wrote.

    @Ms Bunny - OH MY GOODNESS I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S NEARLY HERE. And then yes, let's move on. Happily so.

    @Lira - I always thought it began at 30. And in some ways, it did. But in other ways, I am a giant procrastinator (though I could blame that on the wedding too) and looking forward to 31. Yay.

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  10. I think it was meant to be that I found your blog today. I literally just wrote my first blog post about 10 minutes ago because I am in a similar situation. Just planning my wedding but also feeling like I want to be better at and get more from everything in my life. I'm so inspired by the many amazing women blogging today, like you, and can't wait to look through your archives and read more from you moving forward!

    Happy Birthday!

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  11. Becca you express thoughts, issues, and triumphs in a way many of us wish we could. I know the post wedding blog is tough, but it's also really easy. You know I usually keep it light on my blog (maybe excrpt for Mondays) and wonder of that is enough. But it is for me and hey if I can let people know about a deal, then that's great.

    Here's to figuring it out and blogging about t.

    xoxo,
    Chic 'n Cheap Living

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  12. Can't wait to see where you take the blog from here.

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  13. August 2010? You started writing this blog in August 2010? Oh no, my dear. Because I was kinda sorta already blogstalking you in the fall of 2009. SO THERE.

    Okay, I'll stop teasing about your accidental typo. I just want to make sure you give proper credit to how long you've been at this, and how long I've been reading. And I'll keep reading, not just because these are the sort of questions that are on MY mind, too.

    Yay! I'm so excited about this new phase of your life!

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  14. @Lyn - Gah. Fixed. That was some wishful thinking/freudian slipping there as I apparently tried to take back a year of this looooong engagement.

    See, SO READY to move on. Yay.

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  15. You know, this is so interesting to read. You know that with a lot of hard work, little to no self-introspection and a lot of loneliness, I got to a place in my career that was slammin'. I considered myself stylish and in shape, organized, well-traveled and all the things you listed you want out of life. I threw dinner parties, ran marathons, learned about wine tasting, practiced Bikram yoga, jumped out of planes, white-water rafted. All of it.
    But as you know, all of that changed for me quite abruptly. While I was no longer lonely and had met the man-o-my-dreams, those feelings of accomplishment and power and control all slipped away, despite my accomplishments. I'm having to deal with that (still, dammit) and figure out the new me.
    I've had several conversations about this point in my life with my parents, my parents' friends, older former co-workers and the like. What I've learned thus far is that sh*t changes. Sometimes, you have to re-invent yourself when you get the life curve-ball. Looking back, my mom went from a computer programmer (in the 1960's, no less!), to full-time house wife, to volunteer, back to school and to computer programming where she became VP of I.T. at Bank of America. My aunt went from school teacher to guidance counselor to needle shop owner to full-time artist. My dad went from paper salesman to Marine fighter pilot to PeopleSoft engineer.
    My point is that I think you get it (where I'm much slower). It's about the journey. The only regret I really have is that I wasn't as self-aware as I needed to be to deal with change that was not of my doing!
    You're in such a great head-spot and I think that you can and will accomplish whatever you set your heart to do. My only snippet of advice is to be mindful of change. Be present in your now and now just of your future.
    As I approach my own birthday (gah, I'm SO OLD), I'm investing more time in who I am and how to present myself. Definitely a new challenge, but I'm up for it!
    Sorry to bogart the blog, I just had a lot to say on this one. :)

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  16. Oh, and I say go for The Writer thing. You. Write. Well. Very well. Do it. Go for it.

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  17. Happy (belated) birthday!!

    I will read anything you write and I'm really excited by the prospect of you continuing to write about becoming the woman you want to be. I identify with so many of the things you listed as goals for yourself. In particular, I am also wrestling with some style stuff -- like you, I look very young, and University employees mistake me for an undergraduate a LOT, even when I think I'm dressed professionally.

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  18. Rebecca you inspire me.

    I want a lot of things to. I couldn't put it into words today when I was asked to. But you did it to. How do we become interesting, well rounded, grown up women (without forgetting to have a little fun too)?

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  19. I look forward to what you continue to write about! I am totally interested in a figuring-it-out life blog. :)

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