Last year after my 35th birthday, I made a list of things to do, places to see, books to read, foods to taste, and pieces of my personality that I decided to change or just needed to learn to live with. A sort of follow-through document, if you will, by which I would hold myself accountable. Most of the things on my list actually happened, although a few are still hanging around since I realized that even one year’s time is not as much time as one might believe. And time alone cannot change the way I see myself or how anyone else sees me, for that matter.
The 35th year of my life is, quite honestly, the highlight of my life so far. I got married to my best friend and found myself traveling across the country (more than once). My idea of home spilled out from North Florida to encompass the entire Southeastern United States (oh, cypress swamps, I miss you so!). I grabbed circumstance by the neck and told it to take a leap off a high cliff when I declared my independence, finally realizing for the first time in ten years that I had more say in my life than he did. Then I packed up my daughter’s and my belongings and headed west to Oklahoma with my husband, determined to find a bigger, more sweeping definition of my sense of place, my idea of home. It’s my own version of the westward expansion, perhaps, but with fewer covered wagons and probably just as many government documents to get us here.
I woke up this morning, my 36th birthday, in bed with my husband in our house in Oklahoma. I sent my insanely creative kid off to school with signed permission slips allowing her to participate in Art Club and the Talented & Gifted program. I am finishing a research paper this week for a class that will help me graduate from the University of Oklahoma. And I get to eat cake tonight with my family and new friends. None of these things would be taking place if I hadn’t started to believe in the notion of self-worth and, quite frankly, learning to like myself enough to make things happen.
So today I am celebrating how ridiculously awesome it is to make decisions for myself. I have the support of my friends, new and old, and the love of my family, near and far. And I have birthday cake.