Turning 32

I turn 32 on Thursday. I turn 32 on Thursday. Sorry, I’m just trying to let it sink in. I turn 32 on Thursday.

This… has me feeling a mixed bag of confusing and overly complicated emotions.

Disappointed. Proud. Anxious. Depressed. Hopeful.

1. Disappointed.

I am so incredibly disappointed in myself and what I haven’t accomplished. As someone who has been deemed “more Monica Geller than Monica Geller” by a number of people (one of the greatest compliments I have ever received) I had a plan. And I have utterly failed in that plan.

Obtain Master’s by 24.

Achieve success in my career by 26.

Married by 28.

Start family/have children by 30.

Get published by 30.

Find peace by 30.

Every other goal imaginable by 30. That was my magic number – 30. Guess what I’ve accomplished? I did obtain my Master’s and have the mountain load of debt to prove it. I got married. And that’s it.

I know I have my reasons for not accomplishing some of this stuff. I died. (Yes, actual physical death.) And then spent two years on chemo, dialysis etc. etc. trying not to die again. Basically my mid-twenties were lost. But I just kind of see this as an excuse. I should still have accomplished more by now.

When I was 21 people told me how fearless I was after moving to Los Angeles with nothing and no one to pursue my Master’s. But I don’t feel fearless. In fact, a lot of my disappointments are rooted in the things I didn’t do. Because I was too busy. Stretched too thin. Because of my latest brain surgery/illness/extended hospital stay. There was always a reason, but really it was because I didn’t try hard enough. Push hard enough. It seemed hard and I hesitated. I was afraid.

I have yet to publish that book. I don’t have the career success I expected as I define it. My husband and I are not ready to start a family and even when we are ready, we don’t know how we’re going to have kids. (We can afford kids once we have them, but having them biologically is 180-250K, adoption 35-45K. Please wrap your heads around that.)

And as far as peace. Maybe I’ve achieved that to the best of my ability. I’m more enlightened and evolved than I was and that has brought a kind of peace, until I have to deal with someone less enlightened or evolved. Then I just want to call be like, “All right, I’m out!”

2. Proud

I’m really proud that I’m able to turn 32, because honestly I shouldn’t be here.

My mother’s umbilical cord killed me when I was born. That seemed to set a tone for the rest of my life. At six months I had a brain bleed that should have killed me. Doctors said I wouldn’t make it and then if I did, I would be “non-functioning”. High-functioning was never an option.

The doctors didn’t think I would live to see 5, 10, 21, 30. Really they kept upping the number after I surpassed their most recent estimate. I’m a genetic fluke having several brain, heart, bone, kidney, autoimmune, blood, lung and stomach issues… I’m “special”.

In all fairness they weren’t entirely wrong. They were wrong when they said I wouldn’t live past X age but they weren’t when they believed I would die. I’ve died 46 times. I used to whip that number out, like it was the most impressive of bragging rights, and maybe it is, but it doesn’t feel like enough.

But here I am, about to turn 32. I shouldn’t be here, but I am. I am incredibly grateful and proud. Proud because it’s been a nonstop fight to stay on this earthly plane, and grateful because I swear a lot of it is just pure dumb luck.

3. Anxious

My pending birthday is filling me with more anxiety than usual. (And as someone with PTSD who has occasional panic attacks and night terrors, I know me some anxiety.) I can divide most of the anxiety into two major categories: “TIME IS RUNNING OUT! OMG! OMG!” and “The actual day”.

I think a lot of people have felt at some point in their lives like time is running out. But for me – I always feel like I’m on stolen time as it is. Like my very existence challenges what should be, and how many times can someone “cheat” death? Even saying it, writing it, thinking it feels like I’m “asking for it” from the universe. It terrifies me. And as someone who has been to the other side and back, each death leaves a permanent impression on just how fragile human life is. I have 46 permanent stamps of “Human life fragility” tattooed to my soul. 46 very loud and insistent clocks that have all stopped ticking.

A 47th clock still ticks away though. And it reminds me of more rational truths. I want to have children, plural. I don’t want to still be raising my kids by the time I’m in my mid-fifties. As of now I’ll be raising my first-born at age 50. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Then there is the day of my birthday, which I “used to” strongly believe was cursed. Every birthday that I have celebrated or tried to celebrate ended in some kind of tragedy, or death or both. And this is not me being a drama queen. Some examples include: being brutally assaulted, friend’s suicide, natural disaster, getting mugged, targeted/beaten by a bunch of homophobes, robbed and oh, my most recent and involved death. All of these things happened on my birthday. So, yeah, I do not like that day. And before anyone tries to come at me with “self-fulfilling prophecy” nonsense, I may be pretty incredible at times but causing a natural disaster is a little above my paygrade.

So this year, like every other before it, I’m just going to keep my head down and pray for a boring, forgettable birthday. I’ll celebrate this the day after if I get my wish.

4. Depressed

All of my disappointment and anxiety are filling a void that has become a small pool of depression. But they’re aren’t the only things in that pool.

I’m just questioning everything. My life. My choices. My writing. My relationships. I don’t see it as a midlife crisis because I don’t have any urges or desires to move onto something new. It’s just…

What the fuck am I doing?

That is the question I keep asking myself. What the fuck am I doing? What the fuck am I doing?

I don’t just have self-doubt, I am plagued by it and it is utterly crushing. I don’t think I have what it takes as a writer, not in terms of facing rejection, but in terms of talent, skill and who the hell wants to read what I have to say? I see so many friends and colleagues flourishing and I am genuinely happy for them, but I also think, “Why not me too? When will it happen for me?” And then almost immediately my inner voice answers, “It won’t. Give up now. You don’t have it.”

In my relationships I just feel not good enough. I’m not a good enough friend/brother/spouse/extended family member/human.

And then I just question my choices regarding everything and everyone. Did I behave the best? Do the best thing? Say what needed to be said? Is it important to be right or happy and why does it seem like I can never be either?

Yes, I am always this neurotic. Yes, this is always in the back of my mind. But honestly, normally I feel I am mostly happy. This is the 10%. For the last month this has been the 98% with no end in sight.

5. Hopeful

I hope that 32 is a good year – my best yet. I hope I’ll further my writing career. I hope my husband and I will finally be ready to start a family, and maybe figure out the first steps in affording one. I hope I have good health and my death count doesn’t rise. I hope my actual birthday is a happy one, rather than apocalyptic. I hope I can celebrate. I hope that as the year goes on I have more and more to celebrate.

Normally I would have goals. I have a plan. I make endless lists and strategize and constantly keep score with myself. Push myself. And maybe in a month or two I’ll do that again. But right now, I just can’t. I keep thinking of the words, “Be kind.” I try to say them whenever someone upsets me and I fight back the urge to lash out with my words. I think I’m a nice person, unless you cross a line. I can be objective and understanding and patient. But I seem to be none of those things in relation to myself.

“Be kind.”

Perhaps I need to stop keeping score with myself. Pushing myself. Pressuring myself. I need to stop overthinking and worrying; I need to stop convincing myself I’m a failure and waste of space and should just give up.

Maybe, all I should do is be kind to myself.

If I can do this, then maybe, hopefully, the rest will follow.


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