I am starting this blog one month and one week after I turned 35. I technically started it earlier in the year, but in my typical perfectionist/procrastinator fashion, revised and rewrote and backed out more times than I can count. But now, here we are.
I didn’t think 35 would be a big deal, but as it approached, I realized that, to me, it really was.
I had zero qualms about turning 30. Not because I had everything figured out or knew exactly what I wanted out of life. It was actually quite the opposite, and maybe that was just it. Everything was uncertain, up in the air, wide open. Scary, but freeing.
My friends who were married with careers were terrified of leaving their 20s. We discussed over drinks, during weekends in our college town, with our coffee at work. Dreading turning 30, lamenting getting older and what that meant for our biological clocks, our careers, our metabolisms, our energy levels, our skin, our tolerance for cheap alcohol.
But I didn’t feel that way at all. I was on the edge of the cliff of the previous decade, ready to swan dive into maturity and new possibilities. At 29, I was a grad student without a job lined up yet. I had been dating someone (my now-husband) for a few months, and it seemed to be going well, but wedding bells weren’t ringing just yet. I was going to have a lot of debt from school, and kids were a long way off. I hadn’t really loved most of my 20s (another story for another day), so my 30s felt like a fresh start, a time to really become who I wanted to be. I had time, I told myself. We all did.
But 35. Oh, 35 felt different. I’ve always been a late bloomer, and I now found myself where many of my friends had been at 30. I’m married, with a career and a kid and a house. I have really enjoyed my 30s for the most part, and now they’re halfway over? How could that be? I love my life, but sometimes I found myself looking around and wondering how I had gotten here. I felt lost and like I was running out of time – but for what I didn’t know.
I know that this existential crisis was (probably) not just about turning 35, but 35 really kicked it into high gear. I had always told myself I would make my way back to being creative, to writing, to something mission-driven, but I was working in health communications and PR, where the most writing I did was in responding to the 200-plus emails I received a day. Where I was so anxious and exhausted by day’s end that I could barely write a half page in my journal, let alone take on a creative project for myself. Where I felt all of my energy went to appeasing difficult clients and taking care of our toddler son. I was starting to feel stuck – after job hopping throughout my young adulthood, I finally had a career, but I was scared that if I kept going down this path, I might not be able to turn around.
So, in the middle of a pandemic, four days after my 35th birthday, following countless breakdowns and weeks of crying (trying to split childcare with my husband while working 50-hour weeks was going great), along with many hours spent agonizing over it with my husband, friends, and family, I gave my two weeks notice. I had (and have) no plan, other than taking time to hang out with our son (and not just plopping-him-in-front-of-a-TV time so that I could attempt to work – thanks, COVID!) and figure out what I felt a little more called to do. While we are not a household that can exist on one income long-term (hello, living in DC and loads of student loan debt), I do realize that it’s a huge privilege that I can take this break at all, and I want to make the most of it. I want to actually feel like my taking a breather was not in vain, that I can find work I can see myself doing long-term, that 35 is not the dead end, the wall, the point of no return I felt it was.
So here I am starting something new, giving myself a project and a means to thinking through my life and the world around me that isn’t just my hastily scribbled-in journal. An outlet to learn new skills and revive some old ones, to take my notes on what I observe, and turn them into something a little more cohesive while I figure out my next move as a new-ish 35 year old.