I can’t believe I’m even saying this, but as of two days ago, on July 30th, I’m officially over the hill -yep! I’m forty years old. What?! How did that happen already? No seriously – how the heck did that happen already? Every birthday, I like to do a little gratitude practice as well as some reflection. Join me as I celebrate forty great years and look forward to another fabulous forty to come. Let’s dive in.
The older I get, the more people seem to care less about celebrating birthdays. Maybe it’s because they don’t like the number they are celebrating. Maybe it’s because they don’t want to pressure of planning something. I am not one of those people. I’ve always made celebrating my birthday something special. It’s the day we were born! It’s another year of learning and growing. It’s another year of relationships. It’s another year of dreams. And another year worth of memories. Isn’t that worth celebrating? I think so. I don’t care if I’m celebrating my 29th, my 40th or my 68th birthday – I will be celebrating in a big way. Sometimes I think this is partially because growing up I was always jealous of decorated lockers and class cupcakes. Since I was a summer birthday, mine was usually lumped in with all the summer birthdays. And throwing birthday parties proved difficult because a lot of my friends’ families took their Summer family trips in July before the school year started. So every year, I go big.
Some of my favorite birthday celebrations? My twenty-fifth was quite the year to remember. I was living in Tampa at the time and they are kinda big into pirates down there, they have a whole parade that is pirate themed called Gaspirella! For my 25th birthday, I rented a pirate ship float. Imagine a pirate ship, driven by a man dressed as a pirate, driving around Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida. We all dressed up in pirate-themed attire, had coolers of alcohol and our custom playlist blasting. It may have been one of the most fun birthdays I’ve ever had – at least the most memorable. That was until the end of the night where my memory of the night was getting a bit more blurry if you know what I mean.
Or maybe it was when Christian surprised me with a dinner at one of my favorite fancy Mexican restaurants with all my friends. I am always a sucker for surprises for sure. As long as they are good ones.
Or maybe it was for my thirtieth birthday when a group of my friends flew down to my mom’s house and spent the weekend together in Naples. We went shopping, grilled out and went on a airboat ride and held an alligator – all fun stuff. But no matter what we do, spending time with those I care about and just having fun is the key ingredient to a really good birthday. So I’m sure you’re wondering – so what did you do this year?
Well, for the first time in my life -not much. I know, it sounds really disappointing, but I’m honestly totally ok with this plan this year. Even Christian had to ask me multiple times if I was sure I didn’t want to do anything. And I’ll tell you what I told him – I promise I’m ok with it!
I guess I can’t say I didn’t do anything – the weekend prior to my birthday I went with a couple girlfriends to get a massage at the Waldorf Astoria here in Chicago and then we had a fabulous brunch at Blue Door Kitchen and met up with Christian and his friend Matt for a couple drink after. Well, I was drinking Arnold Palmers – try saying that ten times fast by the way. I don’t know why but I have to say Arnold Palmer really slow or I mess it up. And ten times fast? No way! But it was a great way to spend a Sunday because it was with some of my closest friends and it was a gorgeous day. It almost felt like previous summers where we all would sit at an outdoor table and have rose all day. Except this year, I was the only one not drinking wine. It’s ok – there’s always next year!
On my actual birthday, Christian graduated his Executive MBA program. So the weekend was pretty much about this huge accomplishment as we had a weekend full of family and friends. All of the students were given hotel rooms on Friday and Saturday night at The Drake Hotel. If you have never heard of The Drake – you may have seen it in movies like Risky Business, My Best Friend’s Wedding, What Women Want, Wicker Park or Mission Impossible. It’s pretty much an icon here on Michigan avenue and one I’ve never stayed in! I’ve actually only stayed in one hotel in Chicago ever, and that was for our wedding night when we stayed at The Pendry in the Carbon and Carbine building.
Saturday was his actual graduation ceremony so we honored him And his classmates at the graduation, then attended a reception and capped off the day with a dinner with family that night. Sunday, after we checked out, we took Christian’s mom and grandmother, as well as my mom, to High Tea at the Drake which was girly, flowery and fabulous.
You could say my birthday present was not getting woken up by my dog Ginza when the sun comes up (although, I still had to wake up multiple times for the bathroom), and having breakfast in bed through room service. I love some breakfast room service. At home you have to get up, cook breakfast in the kitchen and clean up after yourself. Breakfast room service you can just wear a robe, lounge in bed and have someone else do all the work – best ever in my opinion.
Not a priority this year
While I don’t subscribe to parents, or anyone really, putting themselves last, in this specific case, my birthday seemed like the lowest priority with all we have going on right now. Christian’s graduation is a huge accomplishment. One that he has worked so hard on and has been a life long dream of his. I’ve watched him study late at night and had a front row seat to his excitement, motivation and growth during the program. I was already so excited to celebrate this with him, I didn’t want the weekend to be about me. I didn’t want him to have to share in the excitement. I wanted him to have his moment and to support him in that moment. He deserved this weekend to be about him. Wow, that’s love now isn’t it? Especially from a Leo? Aren’t we supposed to always want to be the center of attention? Most of the time, that’s true, but in this case, it’s not about me.
Also, this year my mind is focused more on the exciting things to come. Our little girl will be joining us in less than three months! We have a lot of things to do before then like our wills, setting up the nursery, taking prenatal classes and getting ready for her arrival. August is such an exciting time for us. I can’t wait to see the nursery done. It’s going to be adorable.
We are doing somewhat of a safari theme. Her focus animal is an elephant for a couple of reasons. Elephants are smart, and travel in a herd in which they protect each other. They are loving and gentle yet strong and powerful. And Christian and I have not only seen them on a safari, but we’ve been on them and bathed a baby elephant at a sanctuary in Thailand. Christian really wanted to do a wall mural, so he found this beautiful wall decal from a company up in Canada that reminds us of the mountains in Tanzania where we went on safari, complete with a light blush pink sunset in the background. This will match the blush drapes and compliment the sage green nursery furniture. It’s going to be the best decorated room in our house at the end of the day!
My mind and heart are so full right now with celebrating Christian and our baby girl, for the first time in my life, my birthday just isn’t top of mind. I guess you can say, I have bigger things going on in my life right now. My birthday is every year, but Christian achieving a lifelong dream and us getting ready for our only child being born seem much more reasons to celebrate than me turning another year older.
And side note, you better believe there is no way I’m celebrating turning 40 without a glass (or bottle) of wine in my hand. That’s just sacrilegious! So we’ve talked about it, and instead of celebrating this year, for my forty-first birthday, we’re going to go on our first trip together away from our baby to Napa. Considering how much we both love wine, and how many wineries we’ve been to around the world, it’s shocking to me that Christian and I have never been to Napa together. I’ve actually only been to Napa once. It was on a work trip and we went to one winery for a tasting. That’s it. I didn’t even stay the night in Napa. So I don’t really think that counts. Christian and I have been talking about taking a trip out there for what seems like forever, so this is a perfect opportunity to finally do so.
The baby will be a little over nine months by then, so a great time to leave her with Grandma for a long weekend away. Plus it will be great to spend some much needed quality time together after getting through the newborn stage. We’ll be able to just have time to the two of us, and celebrate all we’ve done in the last year as a team. Now that sounds like a fabulous birthday!
Yearly Birthday Ritual
I have always considered myself as someone who is self-reflective. I tend to look inwards a lot. I set personal goals on a regular basis. I pay attention to how I’m feeling and what triggers me. I analyze my reactions to things and take accountability for my part in different situations. It’s because of this I am not someone that finds it difficult to apologize. I also do have the tendency to over-analyze and be harder on myself than necessary. But I’d rather be this way than the type of person that doesn’t self-reflect at all. We all know that person.
That person that never apologizes because the issue is always about others and what they did or said. That person that doesn’t even see how their actions or words impacted those around them. That person that gets very defensive if you put a mirror in front of them. We all have at least one of them in our lives, I know I do.
While being self-reflective may make me more vulnerable and emotional, I think it also makes me stronger. It makes me a good friend, a good partner and it will make me a better mother. Every year, I take my birthday as a time to do a little self-reflection. With another year of life, comes a year of learnings and growth. A year to reset my mindset as I look into the next year.
Considering this year my life is at such a pivotal time, it seems more important than ever to continue this ritual. I’m not only redefining my identity as I add the mother title, but I’m also reconsidering my career path. Whether it’s your birthday or not, having a yearly moment of reflection is truly beneficial. I invite you to join me in mine and maybe get inspired to do one of your own.
What I’ve learned
First I start with what I’ve learned in the past year. A lot has happened in the past year. I got married, I quit my job, I published a book, I started a new job, I got pregnant and then was laid off. I’ll tell you what, if I can’t learn something from all of that, then what the hell am I even doing with my life?
Throughout this roller coaster of a year, I am thankful to say I have learned a lot. Because I tend to think in logical sequences, I am organizing my top three lessons by career, relationships and self.
In my career, I’ve learned…
- It’s up to me to set and hold boundaries. And to be willing to walk away if those boundaries are not being respected.
- I need to recognize and respect when I need a break and accept the support from those around me. The willingness to accept help is a strength, not a weakness.
- Listen to my gut and don’t ignore the red flags. Loving who you work with is not enough to stay in a role that is the wrong fit.
In my relationships, I’ve learned…
- True partnership isn’t always 50/50 split. Sometimes one partner takes on more in service of the other until they get back on their feet. The willingness of both parties to support the other is what makes up the 50/50 split. Not the internal scorecard we keep on a daily basis.
- I believe blood isn’t what makes family, love is what makes you family. And it’s ok to walk away from any relationship that doesn’t prioritize love towards one another.
- Relationships will continue to evolve and change along with us. What’s important is to give each other grace through this process as we figure out our new roles.
In my self, I’ve learned…
- I have to put myself first, physically and mentally – and this can’t change when I become a mother. This is the only way to enable me to show up for those I love as my best self.
- I need a certain level of external connection on a regular basis. This can come in a lot of forms, but it’s important to make time and put in the effort to connect with others.
- Touch is more important to me than I realized. I’ve always considered myself not a touchy-feely person, but since I’ve been pregnant, I’ve noticed that I do need more physical connection with Christian. Even just little things like a touch on the arm or a cuddle on the couch. But it matters more to me than I thought.
Now it’s your turn – what have you learned in the last year?
I believe we are all a constant work in progress. Each birthday is a time when we can self-reflect, but also a time to start fresh. A time to think about how we want to move forward into the next year of our lives. As I look ahead, in the next year I’ll be starting a new role in my career and becoming a mother. No big deal here! Just changing my whole life – what could go wrong? Throughout this process, the biggest lesson I want to apply is to trust myself and focus my energy on people and circumstances that serve me. A lot is happening in the next year, but I have the faith that my life leading up until now has prepared me for what’s to come.
My life has prepared me to find the confidence and strength to start a new career path. To get uncomfortable and not rest on what I know to date. Prepared to go for the role that not only excites me, but provides me with the flexibility and balance I require so I can be the mother, partner and loved one I want to be.
My life has prepared me to be the mother I want to be. The mother that doesn’t compare herself to others. The mother that’s present and appreciates even the hardest moments of that first year. The mother that gives her partner and herself grace as we figure it out together. The mother that is patient and kind and emotionally present for her daughter.
It’s been a facilitating 40 years of success, mistakes, laughter, tears, love, heartbreak and everything in between. But I believe the next 40 years can be even better, because now I have something I didn’t in the last half. Now I have confidence in myself from the lessons I’ve learned along they way.
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Until next time!