By the time you are reading this, I will have turned 32.
What the hell, people! How did that even happen?
As a kid, I remember wanting to get older as fast as possible: to mature, to drive, and let’s face it, to be in charge. I pushed through high school, college and graduate school with a list of interesting assumptions of what I ‘had’ to do to succeed. I took all the ‘right’ classes, interned, participated in appropriate extracurricular activities (Band of the Fighting Irish, yo), crafted resumes, ordered business cards, and kept plotting each step forward. During that time, I traveled to 15 countries, earned two degrees, fell in love three times, had my heart broken once, moved to four different cities, bought a condo, and worked three internships and two real jobs.
Those interesting assumptions were sometimes right, and sometimes they were incredibly wrong. Yes, I did need good grades and references to get into my graduate program, but no, I do not need to be a political appointee already. Yes, learning a foreign language was helpful in getting a job in foreign policy, but, no, I do not want to live in another country for long periods of time. Yes, I do need to eat mindfully and exercise to maintain my health, but, no, having MS or being curvy does not mean no one will ever love me. Looking back, my youthful idealism, as well as my stubbornness, led to so many adventures, but I am sure that I did not fully appreciate it when they happened. So, in honor of finally being my so-called ‘dream’ age, and since the blog-o-sphere is obsessed with lists, may I present to you, in no particular order…
Ode to 32: 32 reasons to love being 32.
1. Having my own space: I was able to buy a condo in Northern Virginia right as the housing market crashed, before federal government-imposed mortgage regulations, and right before the stock market tanked. Right place, right time FTW.
2. Schools out: Yay for being finished with college and graduate school, or really any education needed to qualify for jobs here in Washington, DC. Now I can go back for my PhD when I want to… if I want to.
3. I can buy my own drinks: Beyond the financial capacity, I don’t need someone else to ply me with alcohol to feel loved. I’m getting comfortable in my own skin, and I’m finding my sense of belonging within my soul. Plus, it’s just cheaper to buy the bottle and drink with friends at home.
4. New priorities: In my 20s, my top priorities were: lose weight, get good grades, get a good job, and get a boyfriend (pretty much in that order). Going into my 32nd year, my priorities have changed and/or matured, including manage stress, go to yoga, run a marathon, develop better body image, and love more.
5. Nordstrom: I have always been a big girl. From my early teens until graduate school, I skipped the teen sizes for clothing, first to ‘misses’ and then to the maligned ‘plus-size’ section. I hated myself for being that big and I hated shopping because the size labels were proof I didn’t belong (and, maybe, not worthy). When I lost a lot of weight in my late 20s, I still hated shopping. I continued to hate shopping until this year, when I found Nordstrom and their (now) free personal shopper service. Go do it. It’ll change everything.
6. All of the books: I’ve always loved reading. I would go to the library and check out five or six books at a time as a kid. I love that it’s ‘cool’ for old folks like me to read young adult fiction like The Hunger Games, The Giver, and/or The Fault in Our Stars. Plus, we still have our amazing ‘adult’ authors like Jennifer Weiner and Gillian Flynn, and so many more.
7. Wearing Hello Kitty jewelry: It’s ok! I promise. It’s gives my otherwise dull business suit a fresh vibe. Yes, that’s it.
8. Not quite cynical, not quite naive: The 30+ version of “Not A Girl, Not Yet a Woman.” I’m old enough to not trust everyone at their word or go against my gut instinct, but I’m not quite jaded enough to stop getting excited about Christmas, birthdays, sea otters, and romance.
9. Skills: After 32 years of emotional highs and lows, I have devloped a fair amount of skills to handle life as it comes my way. Less Hulk smash, more inhale, count to five, exhale, repeat. Even the Hulk can do yoga.
10. DSW: Enough said.
11. Knowing enough about what I want: Whether it’s going through that last bad relationship or quitting a job, I’ve had enough experiences to say “yes, I do want to make out with you” or “no, I don’t want to analyze spreadsheets all day.”
12. Fun leather jackets: You can wear them to work. Even in the U.S. Government.
13. Lingerie: so, there are other lingerie stores than Victoria’s Secret? And they fit all kinds of sizes? and they don’t shame your body? Lingerie for everyone!
14. Seeing the world: when you’re one of those over educated, over opinionated, under loved women, there’s a lot of time to see the world and soul search. I have been to some pretty crazy places in my 32 years, and each place left its mark on my psyche.
15. Not having it all: When I was in college, I thought ‘having it all’ meant working long days and wearing stiff business suits. Now, I feel like I’ve have ‘it’ when my training run feels easy or it’s a beautiful day outside and I get to walk around my favorite spots in DC.
16. Gettin’ it done: With #15 in mind, there’s still plenty of time to get what I want accomplished. Hello Marine Corps Marathon, don’t mind if I do.
17. Dance clubs vs. Netflix: In my 20s, going out on Friday and Saturday felt like an obligation. The “you’ll never be this young and free again!!!” mantra, if you will. But in the past two years, I’ve stayed home , got up early to run 10 miles the next morning, took a nap, and then danced all night until 2am. It’s amazing.
18. Looking distinguished: People stop asking you if you’re an intern when you wear your hair in a ponytail. It’s liberating.
19. Dream guy: While I’ve always prioritized any guy’s sense of humor when considering a relationship, more superficial aspects were far more important five years ago. Now, funny, smart, and kind are crucial while tall, fancy job, and extroverted are nice but unnecessary.
20. Responsibility: My nomadic lifestyle provided valuable experiences, but they didn’t allow for tons of personal responsibility. Now, I can reminisce on my work trip to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa while making sure my plants stay alive. (RIP 15 basil plants, never forget)
21. Professionalism: Essentially, I’ve mastered the art of mentally cursing out the moron in front of me while smiling and saying “thanks for your insight and I’ll take that back to my leadership.”
22. Yoga: I am the quintessential Arlington yuppie (but with an American instead of a German car… shhh, no one tell or they’ll kick me out). I found a great yoga studio and community, and I drop phrases like “authentic voice,” “breathe,” and “true self” into everyday conversations. My defense colleagues look at me funny every time.
23. Confidence: Perhaps because of yoga, I’m far more confident in my everyday life than I was 10 years ago. I’m still a work in progress, so I guess I’ll keep going to class.
24. 90s music: I have a weird ability to remember song lyrics and when I heard the song first. If I could forget the lyrics to NSYNC or Paula Abdul or Mariah Carey I would have the brain space to learn five languages. But each time I hear a 90s song, I can remember the exact moment I first heard it, and it’s amazing opportunity to time travel for three minutes.
25. Self-compassion vs. self-care: I’m a work in progress on this part too, but the distinctions are much clearer now. Understanding my emotions or how I can counteract stressful moments during the day is far more important to learn than simply taking a nap or going to the spa. And while eating healthy is important, I shouldn’t beat myself up for eating some pizza at work because my fatigue was bad one day and I couldn’t walk far.
26. Health insurance: I hope more and more people can benefit from having access to health care. I would be lost without my employer’s health plan, and even if I have to go to battle with them sometimes, I sleep easier at night knowing that I pay $35 instead of $6,000 a month for my MS medication.
27. Wine: It took living in northern Virginia before I really appreciated good wine… I don’t mean Olivia Pope, drink a bottle a night, wine. I mean drinking a glass while watching the sunset on the top of the W Hotel in downtown DC, or relaxing with a cold glass of Pinot Gris after a long work week. Then there’s all the fun wine pairings, like cheese, meat, pasta, whatever. Until you buckle and go gluten free.
28. Exploration: From juice cleanses to yoga retreats and in depth conversations on politics, religion, and life goals, I’ve been able to explore different culture and ideas to get where I am today. There’s still so much more time to explore and that excites the hell out of me!
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29. Vacations: I took my first vacation in like ten years this past May. I pushed back at work to guarantee the days off, I finally found the right person to go with, and, for the first time, I didn’t have a list of 30 things to do and visit. I spent one whole day at the beach, sitting next to the love of my life, talking, swimming, and having an amazing time. Go on vacation people! Use your paid time off for real recovery, not just for attending weddings and holidays. It’s worth the sacrifice.
30. Falling in love: Once or twice or 100 times. Any heartache feels worth it when you find someone amazing to share your life. Of course, it would be nice to get a heads up from the universe that love will happen, but I suppose that takes some of the surprise out of the whole situation.
31. Friends: The Mindy Project has the best quote about friendship “Best friend isn’t a person, it’s a tier.” I have best friends from every phase of my life. I love that my friends from home (Kevin, Ellen, Annie, JB, and Noah) will always remind me of my weird high school phases, that Erika, Alicia, and Nicole still help me deal with life drama like they did when we were in college, and that my DC family (Kristin, Nikki, Tom, Manmeet, Jonathan, Sung and Cassandra) keeps adulthood fun instead of lonely. And of course, my new best friends, my awesome Elevate sisters!
32. The future: Making this list reminds me that I still have a long road ahead of me. I have time to figure out the next five or six steps in my career, I whether or not I do yoga teacher training, and when exactly I get to take over the world. How fun is that?
Enjoy the rest of summer everyone!
WITH LOVE FROM
Maureen , soon-to-be marathon completer, 2014 Elevate Sister.
Maureen is a hopeless optimist, reformed tomboy, and has a strong and snarky voice of reason. She roots for the underdog, which comes in handy being a Notre Dame fan. When not discussing U.S. foreign policy, Maureen organizes fundraisers for her favorite charity, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, attempts to hold crow pose for more than two seconds, and is still trying to figure out who talked her into running a half marathon this spring. If not at work, yoga, or running, you can find Maureen watching shows about handsome vampires or discussing how cute sea otters are.