It's Never Too Late to Be Who You Might Have Been

Today is my 32nd birthday. Around 2pm on November 29, 1979, I began my life on earth.

Yes, I just admitted my real age.

And you know what? I could not honestly give less of a shit.

I once adopted the philo start lying about your age while you’re young so no one will know any better by the time you retire. Now I embrace it: the older I get, the wiser I get. The more aware I am of what I want. The more self-aware and efficacious I’ve become.

I like myself at 32 WAY more than I ever liked me at 22.

I went for a birthday run this morning; we’d just gotten a cold front. (The rest of the world would call it a warm front, but here in Florida, where even the displaced tri-staters can’t handle anything below 80, a cold front is less than 70 degrees and 75% humidity). The air was fresh, uncontaminated by its characteristic stifling humidity. My lungs welcomed the cool, clean breaths. My legs were full of energy and my heart was full of gratitude. The sun even had an extra twinkle, as if it knew this was My Day.

As my perky, peppy shadow bounced along the ground in front of me, its wavy ponytail swinging merrily, I silently admonished myself. I have been a major Grouch this week. I really need to snap out of it. (I actually wore an Oscar tee-shirt over the weekend to express my sentiments.)

You see, I am not an inherently negative person. I’m blindly (even stupidly) optimistic.

And that is exactly why I find depression so unsettling.

Certainly, as my health has improved, I have become more resilient. The good thing about having almost everything wrong with me is that there’s not a whole lot worse it can get. I’ve almost eradicated my tendency to completely shut down when I get overwhelmed. And that isn’t because life’s been easier on me; while I have fewer major traumatic or dramatic incidents occurring daily, I still have a lot of obstacles to tackle. No, it’s because I have simply learned to deal.

I talk a lot about struggling not to feel like a “sick” person. And I love what Wes told me: feeling defeated isn’t the same as being defeated. I used to feel that they were one and the same. Now I can recognize those feelings of defeat and, within a short amount of time, interpret them as a sign to buckle down and work even harder towards my goals.

Because you know what? I don’t like being beaten.

Quite frankly, it pisses me off.

My life can be utter chaos. When I read my friend Heather’s blog yesterday, it really resonated with me: everyone’s life is turbulent, no matter what we’re going through. Some of us are balancing raising children with managing households; some of us are trying to blend careers or education or medical problems (or all of it) with relationships; and some of us are just trying to make sense of it all. The important part is in the synthesis of Heather and Wes’s ideas: it is all what you make of it.

What upset me so much about losing the money that I lost to Cigna this year is not that I lost it. Eventually, I will save back up and forget the money even existed. What upset me was that it reminded me how far I still have to go; it frightened me to think I may never be anything more than what I am right now. Or worse, that I might have even farther yet to fall.  Because this is not who I want to end up.  I want to be something so much bigger and better.

When I was younger, I used to believe you could be anything you wanted to be. All you had to do is decide it and commit to it, and little by little, day by day, you would become it. When you’re an adult, that sort of blind optimism is harder to come by.

From now on, I’m going to look at my birthday as a time to re-evaluate my goals and plans and make major steps forward. My motto for my 32nd year is going to paraphrase George Eliot: it’s never too late to be the person you always wanted to be.

Get ready, 2012. I’ve got a lot to do before this year is over.

4 tidbits of wizdom:

Wes said...

we all love you professor. it's easy to take where you are for granted, but really, relentless positivity is the way to go. I'm relatively sure that being who you want to be doesn't involve money. Money we can get back. MAJ, we cannot.

Once again, you prove how strong a person you are. Thanks for sharing and being such an inspiration to us all.

Molly said...

Happy birthday MAJ!!! 30s are the awesome, don't be ashamed to admit your age!!! It's going to be a wonderful year for you!

Karen said...

Happy Birthday MAJ! It just keeps getting better and better :)

Alili said...

Wonderful words to live by - hope you have a wonderful year of 32! :)