Milestones and me

In which the author slaps on some Salonpas

If my aching body hasn’t clued me in, my looming 40th birthday this week is cementing the inevitable: I’m old. Middle-aged. A certified Tita.

For some reason, milestone birthdays always bring in more contemplation, 40 being a pretty huge one. We’re in the middle of our journey through life, and we should have a handle on things now. Time to put on our big girl pants now. Time to be Serious. Time to be *gulp* Adult Adults. But what does that even mean, being an adult, especially a successful adult? I’ve been thinking about what I want for myself for some time now. My mom told me a few years back that there are certain expectations for someone my age. She never clarified what were those expectations specifically, who was doling them out, or why I should be beholden to those expectations, but the message I took from that conversation was that I was failing miserably in Life.

Success and the theory of relativity

Fast-forward to today: T minus-[redacted] to the big 4-oh. I finished a counseling session with my therapist earlier, and we touched upon my birthday and the anxiety over the thought of being 40. I have thought long and hard about expectations, success, and being an adult. And I realized I don’t fit the usual mold of what society deems a successful adult. By this time, society dictates that I should have my own family, a house, and a car. Or at least, I should be a #bossbabe, the jet-setting, rich, fun aunt who can lavish gifts on her nieces and nephews. (I got the auntie part just fine, but nope for the rest of that description.)

My therapist asked me how I defined success, and I rambled a little before hitting on the realization: success is relative and curves to what matters to you. In my case, I just want to be self-sufficient and content, and somehow help someone else. I want to be able to make art, design for a living, make enough to enjoy life, and not be a financial burden to my family. I don’t really care about having a spouse and children, never really did. A fancy title or physical manifestations of wealth would be nice, I suppose, but not a hard requirement for me to say I’ve become successful. I just want to be good at what I do, and do some good too. That would be cool. That would be enough.

I’m nowhere near even my own definition of success, but at least I’ve thrown the map being foisted on me and drawing my own. It took 4 decades to realize that I need to make up my own mind, choose my own path with deliberation, and stop putting my own journey as an afterthought.

So at least I have this for step one of Year 40: a clearer path, a hopeful disposition, and a ready heart.