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.