Saturday, April 10, 2010

My Four-Decade Journey

Today is my last day of being 39. Tomorrow is the big milestone. The auspicious occasion that needs to be honored with black "Over the Hill" balloons and "Lordy, Lordy, Look Who's 40 signs". From this point forward, every April 11th, I will be "39 again" and spend countless hours in the mirror checking for age spots and crow's feet.
Nope. Not me. That's not how I see it. It's another day. An important one, but to me, all birthdays are important, whether it's the 13th, 28th or 40th. It's another year of a journey we are taking and it's a great day to appreciate life.
I've been around now for 4 decades. It is a long time. I'm happy to say that those decades have contained a lot of living, loving and laughter. Here are a few of my reflections on those decades:

1970-1979, the childhood years
I had a good childhood. I was lucky to be brought up in a loving home, by parents who stayed together, taught me traditional family values and the importance of God and family in life. I knew early on that I was adopted. It never bothered me. Never made me feel different or incomplete. It was just a fact of my existence. Looking back now, especially after becoming a mother myself, I have a renewed respect for my birth mother. She had great strength and courage to make such a huge sacrifice, just so I could have a better life. I will always be grateful to her for that.
My childhood is filled with memories of Catholic grade school, friends, playing baseball, riding bikes and family time. A good start.

1980-1989, the transformation decade
What else can you call it really? The decade starts at the age of 10, when I'm still playing with Barbie dolls, carries me through high school and ends with me as a young adult, driving, dating and going to college. I'm not sure there is any quicker transition in life, except for maybe birth to age 1.
I really can't complain about my life at this stage either. Sure there were awkward moments, broken hearts, days of anger and confusion. There were certainly worries of trying to fit in and be one of the crowd. Mostly, it was just ordinary life. My tween and teen years were not angst-ridden or overly-tumultuous. Sure, I clashed with my parents. I hung out with people they didn't like and did things they didn't approve of, but I could because by the age of 16, I knew everything. My mother had a different opinion on that. Looking back, I agree with her, but I also see that things could have been much worse. I think it was the Catholic guilt that kept me from going too far.
I was a well-adjusted tween with lots of friends and even a year as captain of the Our Lady of Sorrows cheerleaders. The high school years were actually more focused on things outside of those walls. Working at McDonald's and hanging out with those friends became much more important than basketball games or dances. Sure, I went to some of those too, but school spirit just wasn't really my thing at the time. It was around this time that I began to party. Drinking and smoking became regular activities for me on the weekends. I think that graduating high school with a scholarship, starting college and coming out of this decade without an arrest record and still a virgin shows that it really could have been a lot worse!

1990-1999, welcome to life
The next 10 years marked the completion of college, the beginning and ending of a few serious relationships (and many casual ones in between), working, continued partying, falling in love, moving into my first apartment and getting married. Starting a relationship with Mike one fateful night in a bowling alley, changed the direction of my life forever. It was bumpy at the beginning, but the love between us was transformational. My mom said he brought out the best in me and brought back a side of me not seen in quite a while. A loving, caring and giving side, rather than the self-absorbed side everyone had seen for some time. We were married and life was wonderful. We had each other, great families, good jobs and most of all, we had fun together. We spent time going places, seeing and doing things and most of all, enjoying each other's company. At the end of the decade, we started construction on a house. It was a decade of happiness, joy and hope for the future.

2000-2009 (and a little of 2010 too), welcome to the REAL world
On many nights, lying in bed with Mike, I would often ask him if he was worried that things were too perfect. Our lives were so good, I was just always afraid of what might happen, waiting for that other shoe to drop. This decade was filled with shoes of all shapes and sizes. Parents getting older and ill, infertility, job losses. This decade was a true test of our relationship, our stress levels and our coping skills. It was a time of sadness, fear, worry and anxiety. This isn't to say that the decade was a total loss. In reality, it was because of these obstacles that this was the most important decade so far. In the midst of these issues came growth, understanding and emotional maturity. This was a time of the best and worst things in life--literally birth and death. The loss of a parent is devastating. For it to happen to both Mike and myself within 2 months is crushing. We have each other and we have the brightest star in all of the darkness and that is our daughter, Marissa. Her little life brings so much joy to us and really makes us appreciate what we have. This was a decade of really learning from the journey, counting our blessings and believing in each other and a higher power.

So that's the last 39 year, 364 days. Tomorrow starts a new decade. A new chapter. I welcome it with open arms. Now I just have to decide if I need to change the name of this blog. It's a question for another day I think.

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