I am just a week shy of turning 32 and I am officially having a midlife crisis. This is the birthday that as a child, I grew to fear over the years. I am a mom to an almost three year old girl who is going on her teenage years and a six month old boy who is starting to crawl. My husband is in his second of a four year medical residency that often leaves me feeling like I am inside one of those gerbil wheels going around and around without end. I work part time in environmental policy but have been on maternity leave since my son was born. Part of me wishes to stay home full time, while the other realizes that my salary is paramount to the financial survival of our family these days and I do have a fabulous and flexible job. With my birthday looming over me like a cat pawing at a piece of string, I have been searching for a way to come to terms with my year ahead and hope that I live to tell the tale when I am 33.
I guess I should start off my saying that my mom passed away at the age of 32 when I was only fourteen months old. My wonderful father raised my then eight year old sister, six year old brother and me along with the help of his mother in law, my nana. I never knew what it was like to see my mom, hear her voice, or watch my parents together. All my memories of her are saved in a few photo albums and some sections of my mind where I keep the stories I have been told over the years. I remember what it was like to discover boxes of old super 8 movies when I was snooping around in my dad’s closet as a kid and to finally see those movies burned onto dvd years later. It was the first time I had ever seen my mom move. There are no sounds on these videos so I cannot hear her voice but seeing her move meant everything to me. She died of brain cancer which was discovered shortly after she gave birth to me, despite expressing symptoms throughout the pregnancy. While I never officially mourned for my mom, I think it may be the true source of my postpartum depression that I faced so painfully after my daughter’s birth.
How does one come to the age when their mother passed away and survive? How do they learn to be a good wife or a mother for the first time without that mother figure to guide them? In my mind, I have been saving up all of these thoughts and goals to accomplish when I get older and yet a part of me never believed I would live beyond the age of 32. I guess I sort of saw my mom’s death as a ticking time bomb waiting to happen. When I acknowledged my postpartum depression, I signed myself up for an MRI of my brain to once and for all prove to myself that I did not in fact have an undiscovered brain tumor like my mom. After the doctor gave me the free and clear, I went back to rebuilding my life and reinventing myself as a wife and a new mom.
Thus, the birth of this project. One night a few months ago, I realized that my birthday was just around the corner and that I had two paths to take. I could fall slowly but surely into a year long depression waiting for the bad news to come and mourning once again the loss of my mom. Or, I could turn this year into a project, a year of goals where I seek to accomplish something each month and achieve goals my mother never had the chance to achieve. I guess it is sort of like living through her but in my own way. I decided it was time to stop living in fear of dying and at the same time, stop living in what felt like the shadow of my husband’s career and my children’s nap schedule.
There is no better time for me to pencil myself into my weekly calendar than now. So I have decided to make a list of all the things I have wanted to do, fears to overcome, tasks to accomplish, and select one “project” per month to tackle during my 32nd year. These goals will help me look forward to the year to come and keep reminding myself that I am here for the long haul. I have started compiling a list of fears to overcome such as speaking in front of crowds as well as mundane dreams of mine such as volunteering at a flower shop. Also, I never learned to ride a bike. My brother once tried to teach me but I rode into a parked car at the elementary school behind my house growing up and that was it. If it’s not stationary, I don’t ride it.
I am sure there are many more large scale dreams of mine I would like to achieve such as backpacking in Australia and New Zealand or getting glammed up and attending the Oscars but for a young mom of two with a husband who works over 90 hours a week, I am trying to be realistic and accomplish the little things on my list this year. Perhaps I will overcome my fear of heights through a ropes course or experience a new side of nature while whitewater rafting. Or perhaps this year will be about ME experiencing ME, uncovering MY lost voice and flipping this midlife crisis on its back. This will surely be an adventure of a lifetime. I just hope I am brave enough to come along for the ride.