Reflections on Another Year

As I celebrate my birthday and prepare to enter another year of my life, I find myself joyful, happy to be where I am — even though I’m not exactly sure I know where that is.

The 40s have been liberating, in a way my 30s were not.  I liberated myself from an unhappy marriage towards the end of my 30s, and have spent my 40s on a journey of self/re-discovery.  It’s been an unpredictable ride, but I’m enjoying it.

I’m in a place of no regrets.  I don’t regret the mishaps and mistakes of my prior years — not even the ones I made last week, or last month.  Regret is one of the things I left behind with my 30s.

And boy, are the 30s filled with regret.

By your mid-30s, you start panicking about all the things you haven’t accomplished yet.  Forty — which seems ancient (you remember your parents being 40, and they were OLD) — is looming.  You panic even more if you aren’t even sure what it is you want to do.  You look around at your friends and their great jobs, their happy marriages, their gorgeous children, the financial portfolios you imagine them to have, and you wonder what the hell you’ve been doing with your own life all this time.

My law school classmates and contemporaries — including President Barack Obama, actor/author Hill Harper, former Congressman Artur Davis (D. Ala.) and Terri Sewell (soon to be the 1st black woman Congresswoman from Alabama) — turned out to be some of the world’s biggest overachievers, so I was especially panic-stricken.

Still, by my mid-30s, I had achieved an objective measure of success.  I was a partner at a major law firm.  I was married to the father of my two children.  I owned a Harlem brownstone.  My children were in private school.

I had it made, right?

Except I was miserable.  I hate the hours and the pressures of my job.  My marriage was awful.  My oldest child was in therapy, due in large part to the fights she witnessed every day between my ex and me.  The brownstone needed serious renovations, which I couldn’t afford.

It didn’t take long for it all to fall apart.

Over the course of the rest of my 30s, I quit my job, divorced my husband, sold the house and moved into a rental apartment, and switched the kids to public school.  I started over almost from scratch, with no real idea of what I wanted. 

All I knew was that I didn’t want anything I had.

Now, I don’t have everything I want, but I want everything I have.  I have a solid job with a good employer.  The day job allows me space and time and energy to pursue my other goals, such as my writing.  My blog is well-respected.  I’ve met a community of women (and some men) who have helped me see my potential beyond the law, and with their help I’ve begun taking steps to better understand and realize that potential.

Thanks to my day job, my life is stable enough that I don’t have to worry about my kids.  At times, my life outside of work feels completely chaotic.  Staying open to new possibilities means I never really know, day to day, who or what will enter my life at any given moment. 

Truth is, whether our lives are structured or unstructured, we never know what or who is about to enter or exit our lives.  Last year, I buried my mother.  I thought I would be devastated.  Some days, I’ve been close.  But I’ve spent this first year without her mostly in fond rememberance and celebration of her life.

And as I celebrate the life she led, I celebrate the life her life, her sacrifices and her struggles, have allowed me to lead.

So on this birthday, I am happy.  I am blessed, and I know it.  My ups are not too up, my downs are not too down.  I like myself, inside and out.  I feel sorry for anyone who knows me and doesn’t recognize how wonderful I am.

Happy birthday to me, for this year and what I hope are many more to come.

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6 Responses to “Reflections on Another Year”

  1. OneChele Says:

    Happy Birthday! SO pleased to have met you and enjoying getting to know you. Your fabulosity knows no bounds! Get it, Diva!

  2. iamforchange Says:

    Happy Birthday! That is a very nice post I truly hope you have the best Birthday ever!

  3. Tweets that mention Reflections on Another Year « Carolyn A. Edgar -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by One Chele and Carolyn Edgar, Carolyn Edgar. Carolyn Edgar said: Reflections on Another Year: http://wp.me/psOZx-aM […]

  4. Saida M Latigue Says:

    Again, very happy birthday!! I enjoy your blog & look forward to you sharing another year of your insight. Wonderful. 🙂

  5. sealionwmn Says:

    Happy birthday again, my Leo Sister. Loved everything you had to say. As my own birthday draws nearer, I’m reflecting as well (to be featured in an upcoming blog). Although I’m still only filled with mild trepidation as I get another year closer to the big 3-0, it’s nice to read thoughts like yours, looking back on those years. Here’s hoping I can be somewhere healthy and happy at and through my 30s and into my 40s. With role models like you, it shouldn’t be too hard. XO.

  6. TH O'Connor Says:

    Carolyn- to think I met you while all of your 30 drama was going on and I did not even know. You had “made it” in my eyes, Partner at a major lawfirm, married, kids, successful. I love how in this post you (re)define what it is to be successful. Happy Birthday!

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