A week and a half ago or so, I turned 30.
People kept asking me if it felt any different, and truthfully, it didn’t. Part of this is because I was plenty emotionally prepared for it. Kyle turned 30 last June, and a friend from work hit his thirtieth in September, so I was kind-of already in the mindset of thinking of myself as that age. But it was also hard to feel any gravity to this milestone because, well, frankly, there wasn’t time. My birthday this year fell squarely in the middle of a fucking bonkers stretch of work, nearly two weeks with only a day off and working 12-16 hours everyday. And these were not easy-breezy days of solo-acoustics or comedians. These were balls-to-the-walls work days of 53′ trucks and hanging truss. These were late nights followed by early mornings. These were days where we didn’t see sunlight for two days and it felt like the walls were closing in on us. Days like those, there’s no time for birthdays.
Not to say that my birthday went entirely un-celebrated. There was plenty of love to go around. Kyle took me out to my favorite restaurant on our one day off and presented me with the best birthday present ever. (Two tickets to a Red Wings game at The Joe! And an Ozzy jersey from his parents/grandmother! I’m so excited, I could pee!) There were hugs at work, and one of my electricians brought in cupcakes in my honor. And one of my co-works even gifted me a two-pound bag of Sour Patch Kids! (Which I promptly destroyed within about a week.) No, there was a lot done in my honor to make me feel loved and special on my thirtieth birthday. There just wasn’t a lot of time for me to muse upon how it felt to have completed another decade of life. Shit, there was barely time to do laundry…
But there was one ceremony in honor of my thirtieth birthday that needed to be completed. This is a secret ceremony that I do alone, just me in a quiet space. I don’t even share this with Kyle, though I think I’ve told him about it. I don’t do it every year, maybe every couple, but with this year being my thirtieth I felt it was important that I do it. And since this year is special, I think it’s okay for me to share with all of you.
In my Dropbox is a Word document entitled, “What I Want From Life.” It started as a wide-eyed, passion-filled journal entry that I wrote in 2004 when I was 18 years old, a declaration of what kind of person I wanted to be and what kind of life I wanted to live. I don’t know how it transformed from a journal entry to a document, but it did, eight pages of bullet point after bullet point. Some of my young self’s wishes are very specific, like:
- I want to ride in a hot air balloon.
- I want to own a lot of hats.
- I want to be able to host successful parties.
Some of them are incredibly general:
- I want to be able to deal with change and grow from it.
- I want to be considered intelligent.
- I want to be well-read.
But all of them are things that I deeply, strongly, un-waveringly wanted for my life.
Three years later in 2007, right around my birthday, I revisited my list. But I did more than just re-read it. I edited it. I checked off things on my list that I had experience or accomplished, with a notation:
- I want to ride in a limo. (Dec 2005)
- I want to learn how to drive a stick shift car. (September 2008)
- I want to learn to speak Italian. (Three semesters in college. I wouldn’t call myself fluent, but I know enough to know that I don’t like Italian as much as I thought.)
And then I added to my list:
- I want to own as many pairs of Chucks as possible in a million different colors.
- I want to one day be completely out of debt
- I want to live my life with someone who not only supports my dreams, but is striving towards their own.
On my birthday four years later, in 2011, I revisited and edited my list again, checking off completed wishes as before:
- I want to walk down the aisle on my father’s arm wearing a white dress that makes me beautiful. (November 15, 2008)
- I want to be in a moshpit. (February 2011, Flogging Molly concert at Northern Lights.)
- I want to live my life with someone who not only supports my dreams, but is striving towards their own. (Kyle is not only one of the most driven people I know, but he pushes me forwards towards my own dreams.)
But that year was a little bit different. That year, I also crossed off desires that no longer were, either because they didn’t fit into my life anymore or because older and wiser me realized that they were naive or unrealistic:
- I want to work as a performer on Broadway. (Dreams change, and that’s okay.)
- I want to know my husband so well that I can pick out clothes for him and he’ll love them. (Kyle says this is never going to happen because picking out clothes for him is weird, and he can pick out his own damn clothes. But the point is I could.)
- I want never to go to bed mad, worried, sad, depressed, upset, or stressed. (That’s not how life works.)
- I want to work at the Renissance festival one summer. (Really? Because now that sounds degrading and miserable. No, thank you.)
And just as in years past, I again added to my list:
- I want to hike all 46 high peaks.
- I want to travel to Tokyo, Beijing, and Mumbai, and I want to eat amazing food while I’m there.
- I want to run a Warrior Dash. Seriously, how badass would that be?
Now, just after my 30th birthday in 2016, I’m back to visit my list. With five years since my last visit, there were a lot of dreams accomplished:
- I want to see the fireworks and have a cookout on the 4th of July. (I don’t know if 18-year-old-me meant like, once, or every year? I don’t know. But Kyle and I have been going to his parents’ on Holiday Shores every July since maybe 2009, and that definitely counts.)
- I want to one day be completely out of debt. (August 2014. Though, technically we’ve now amassed a new (and enormous) debt thanks to our mortgage, but I think that’s okay.)
- I want to run a half marathon, and eventually, a full marathon. (Half: September 2011.)
- I want to ski a black diamond and a double black diamond. (Black: January 2012, Double Black: February 2013)
Of course, a lot of wishes got crossed off because, well…let’s just say that things change between 18, 21, and 25:
- I want to attend an opera. (I don’t even think 18-year-old-me knew what the opera was, I think I just liked the romance of the idea. In real-life, I find opera mind-numbingly boring, and you will never catch me sitting through one of my own free will.)
- I want to work on a cruise ship and use the opportunity to see the world. (Fuck. That. Noise. This is our backup-backup plan, what we’re going to do if we suddenly loose our jobs and are on the verge of homelessness. Working cruise ships ain’t for everyone, and it sounds like my personal hell.)
- I want to go to a taping of the Daily Show.(Jon Stewart retired, and I have no desire to see it hosted by Trevor Noah. No offense to Mr Noah.)
And then there were some dreams that were…sort-of crossed off. Because I think I accomplished the spirit of the desire, if not the letter:
- I want to never have to worry about how to pay the bills. (This is a weird one. I can’t say that we’ll never have to worry about how to pay the bills. Shit happens. Life happens. And we could still find ourselves in a rough spot. But as of right now, we’re in a really good financial place. I know that not only are our bills always going to be paid, but we have enough to dream for the future.)
- I want to work, not because I have to, but because I want to. (I’m never going to not have to work. Barring something crazy like the lottery (which we don’t play,) we’re always going to have to work. But I will say that I have the job that I have instead of one that pays more is because I enjoy my work and I enjoy the people with whom I work. And that’s probably what 18-year-old-me really wanted for herself.)
- I want to dye my hair auburn. (Okay, so this is kinda a cheat, because I’ve never actually gone auburn. But I did go red. And besides, I’ve now dyed it damn-near every other color available, and they all beat the shit out of auburn, so I’m going to count it. Atomic Turquoise forever!)
Finally, I added to my list:
- I want our home to be a fun, warm, safe place for our friends.
- I want to get GrandMA console training.
- I want to never feel like I’m too old for Doc Martens or wild colored hair.
- I want to be able to finish a Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle without Googling anything.
Going back through my “What I Want From Life” list has been a way, of sorts, of going back and re-visiting with my old self. It showed me what used to be important to me, how I saw myself, and how I envisioned my future. It’s a little sweet, a little nostalgic, a little embarrassing, (a Ren fair? really?) and a little bit wistful. It’s reassuring to see who I was in juxtaposition with who I am now, and to know that for all my faults, for all my weaknesses, for all my dreams left to be checked off, I’m a person I can be proud of. I know who I am, and I’m cool with her.
But more poignant than the dreams on my list are the ones that aren’t. So many wonderful experiences in my life that I treasure that I never thought to want for myself:
- Go to a thoroughbred race at a historical race track.
- Own an impressive collection of Doc Martens.
- Visit West Side Market in Cleveland and buy an irresponsible amount of cured meats.
- Visit the Lantern Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden (twice, no less.)
- Attend Maker Faire.
- Hike in Maine.
And even a couple accomplishments that I’m so very, very proud of that never appeared as a dream:
- Own my own home with my husband.
- Pass my ETCP certification test.
- Learn to trim my own dimmers.
- This motherfucking blog!
I guess what all this has shown me is that so many of the things that I love about my life now, so many of the memories that I hold dear to me, are things that I never possibly could have imagined for myself. Most of them are things that I didn’t dream because I didn’t even know they were a thing! So how many other wonderful, thrilling, exhilarating experiences are out there that I haven’t even thought or heard of? And how exciting it will be to discover them as they reveal themselves to me!
Like I’ve always said, clearly I’m terrible at predicting the future, so why worry about trying to guess what it will hold? On the other hand, I suppose it doesn’t hurt to dream…