Another year, another birthday. I still love getting older, so I don't mind celebrating - especially since I get to be the center of attention. This year I was very mature and shared my birthday with a friend, who was also born on August 9th. Even though it fell on a Tuesday, we rounded up a group of ten, had drinks at a fancy wine bar, dinner at a fancy restaurant, and then played Cards Against Humanity at our favorite dive bar. (We can only be fancy for so long.) Then, over the weekend, we threw a backyard bash complete with build-your-own tacos and a cornhole tournament. It was lovely and one of the best birthday weeks yet, and I started my 34th year feeling quite loved and quite spoiled.
But now birthday week is over and life is back to normal, which is a different kind of nice. It also means I finally have time to write my annual time capsule. For the last few years, I've written these "This is XX" posts near my birthday, in an attempt to capture life as it is in this moment. Here is number 34.
Thirty-four is still working the same job, except now I find the 8-5 grind - dare I say it? - freeing rather than smothering. (The new promotion helps.) I like routine, find comfort in patterns, am productive when I'm at work, and - more importantly - am productive when I'm home. Some days are better than others, and there are plenty of moments when wish I were still on campus, or a full time novelist that doesn't have to worry about bills or heath insurance. For the most part, however, I like what I do and I'm grateful for the career I've stumbled into.
Thirty-four is an unhealthy obsession with politics. I hate so much about this election - the divisiveness, the hateful rhetoric, the 24-hour-news cycle. Even Twitter stresses me out! It should come as no surprise that I'm pro-Hillary and deeply, deeply against Donald Trump. I'm experiencing anxiety for the first time in my life, and I'm so afraid of what a Trump presidency would look like, especially for anyone who isn't a wealthy white dude. Below all that angst, however, I'm optimistic. I think Hillary Clinton will be our next president, and that makes me happy. She's flawed, but all politicians are. The difference is that her promises give me hope, while his fill me with fear. This year, as in all others, I'm voting for hope.
Thirty-four is writing, still. Getting up early most days to fit in an hour before work, making slow progress on a new novel while the old one sits in a drawer, rejected for now and nursing its wounds. Thirty-four is thinking about Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, a corny book I couldn't help but love, and realizing that I'm a writer because I write. This is great news, especially since it's the only aspect of the creative process I can control.
Thirty-four is a newfound passion for personal finance, which is how I know I'm definitely thirty-four. It's taking control of my money through budgeting apps (I love you, YNAB!), getting close to paying off our credit card debt, watching our savings account grow, and thanking Obama, sincerely, for Income Based Repayment, which is the only reason I'm not crippled by my student loan debt. Thirty-four is wanting to control my money, my spending, my income, to live below my means and feel satisfied with what I have.
Thirty-four is marriage, finding comfort in and feeling at home with another person. It's independence within that institution, thanks to the fact that Nathan works nights and I work days. It's supporting one another's careers and dreams, and fighting about stupid things, and realizing that I will never get bored of this person because we are both constantly changing and growing and learning, even after fourteen years together. Thirty-four is understanding that no one is perfect, and that as long as we stay true to our shared values (which are unique to our relationship) we can get through anything.
Thirty-four is friendships, and the way they ebb and flow. It's watching people I love create new life, and welcoming tiny humans into our world, our circle, our hearts. It's still - always, always - missing the people who live so far away. (Texas! Washington! Oregon! New York! Rhode Island! Michigan! A roaming trailer! The list goes on!) It's learning to love and accept people, despite our flaws and differences, and learning from one another however and whenever we can. It's quiet nights on someone's porch, and raucous nights at the brewery, and visits that are always too short.
Thirty-four is settling into my body, which is an ongoing process. It's sometimes choosing mental health over physical health - IE, skipping the gym in favor of a glass of wine and a good book. It's noticing I have a few new curves, and not hating them. It's accepting that there's only so much time in a day. Thirty-four is looking forward to the fall, when the air will be cooler and my runs will be longer. It's 17 years of vegetarianism, which is officially half my whole life. It's knowing what's good for me and doing that about 3/4 of the time, which feels like a good balance.
Thirty-four is corn and wheat tortillas from Trader Joe's, The Mindy Project and Jane the Virgin, a summer so hot I can hardly stand it, encouraging rejections from literary magazines, and no longer living life by the cadence of semesters. It's mason jar salads, a garden that won't grow, IPAs, my library card, and fresh flowers every week. It's the YMCA, going out on the boat, book club, and freelance gigs on the side. Thirty-four is good, and I can't wait to see what else it has in store .