Today is my birthday and I don’t know about you, but birthdays always cause me to pause and reflect. Almost more so than the new year. That my birthday happens to fall smack in the middle of the year makes it inadvertently convenient for a semi-annual review.
I’m not much of a mark-this-off-my-bucket-list-by-the-end-of-the-year kind of gal. Make no mistake: I love a good list; I love crossing things off of that list, and more than anything I love me some big aspirations and challenging goals. But the major milestones I’ve accomplished in life have not been tied to the end of a calendar year. They have been tied to accomplishing something before I turn a particular age.
The most obvious case for me was getting my master’s degree. As an overachieving twenty-something at my first real career job out of college I worked as a staff writer for a weekly community newspaper in a suburb of Sacramento. I got paid to research and conduct interviews and write all day. It was the best. I loved it so much that I wanted to keep researching and writing as much as possible and so I decided to go to grad school.
Right away I knew a couple of things: 1) I would never have more time to myself; 2) I would never have more energy to work full time and go to school part time; 3) I may never have another job that honed skills I also needed to be successful in grad school. When I got accepted to the program I was almost twenty-five years old and I told myself that I would finish my degree before I turned thirty. I finished when I was twenty-eight.
It’s ten years later and today I turn thirty-eight. In the weeks and days leading up to this birthday I have been thinking about how I gave myself a pretty big assignment for my twenties, and now that I am nearing the end of my thirties I’ve realized that I haven’t had a goal for this decade. There isn’t a thing I’ve told myself that I would do before I turn forty. Until today.
It’s two years until I turn forty and before then I will have a complete draft of a book manuscript.
I do have some material for a book manuscript and I have been working on it sporadically over the past ten years. Someone recently asked me what’s holding me back. The person said I don’t seem like the type of person to dilly dally on projects or a goal that I set my mind to. He’s right. And I didn’t hesitate to respond with what keeps me from working on a book: the material. It’s difficult material for me to process emotionally, but it’s time.
There are some other things that I hope to do before I’m forty. My sister just turned twenty-nine and some friends and I helped her with a Thirty Before Thirty list and I’m kicking around the idea of my own Forty Before Forty list. But nothing on that list will be as big as the book.
I’m curious: are birthdays a big deal for you? Do you do any sort of reflection, self-evaluation, or life overhauls around your birthday? Or is it just me? I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below if you’d like to share your experience.