30 BEFORE 30: A RETROSPECTIVE

1.21.13

So, this is it… Today I turn 30! Three years ago I sat down and asked myself what I wanted from life and what was stopping me from making every dream that lay before me a reality. The answer to the first half of that question came in the form of a list of things I had always wanted to do or achieve, the answer to the second half was NOTHING! I decided right then and there that my life had been on hold for far to long, that I was going to do everything in my power to make myself happy because I couldn’t depend on anyone else to do it for me and that I was gonna have a lot of fun in the process…

I remember as a kid I couldn’t wait to turn 18 and get my life started. I had a plan you see… I’d graduate high school, go to college for the customary four year run, obtain my degree and get married at 22. Then of course my husband and I would wait a year and then welcome our bouncing baby boy (it was of course going to be a boy because I had always wanted a big brother as a child and would provide one for my future daughters). This would all take place by the time I was 24 (the age my mom was when she first married) and by the time I was 30 I would have at least three small children (all two years apart) and probably a fourth little one on the way. It was everything I’d ever wanted! Well, that’s not entirely true, it was everything I thought I ever wanted, and definitely everything that I thought was expected of me. Now don’t get me wrong, I grew up with parents who taught me that I could do and be anything I wanted, probably to such an extent that they now wish they had scaled that particular propaganda back just a notch or two. But, when you grow up in the rural south where most everyone looks the same and talks the same, where everyone worships the same god on Sundays but insists that their way is the right way and far better than your way, a place where raising a good strong family is the best measure of success, you start to believe that if you don’t do those things you have somehow failed at life….

Therefore when I was 16 and started to hear that crazy girl inside of me cry out for freedom, I told her to shut up! When I was 18 and she wanted to run off to New York City and become an art major at NYU, I told her that she’d never survive in such a crazy place, no matter how much she loved the energy it carried. As a 20 year old art major at a much smaller, more appropriate school, I told her that passion or not, photography would never provide any sort of stable career and she should choose more wisely. I continued this process as the years passed, I repeatedly silenced the girl inside who wanted to live her life with wild abandon, I convinced myself that the life I wanted was the appropriate one, the one with the husband and the kids and the white picket fence. God, the universe, whatever you call the Devine hand that guides your life and mine had another plan and it has been the greatest gift of my life thus far…

Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way that when people say “If you want to make god laugh, tell him your plans” they speak the truth. This does not mean that the Devine forces in our lives do not want us to be happy or successful, it just means that sometimes the path we think is best for us to travel is not the path that will lead us to the places we need to be. I spent a large portion of my twenties pining for things I didn’t have, things that would “complete me” (thanks for that “Jerry McGuire”), a life that for most is by all means perfectly satisfying, but a life that was not meant to be mine at that time and maybe never will be. That, like so much of my future, is yet to be determined and I’ve learned over the past three years that it’s ok to not know where I’m headed. *I’m sorry, I think the girl I was at 22 just rolled over in her proverbial grave… Please excuse her!*

It wasn’t until I was 26, almost 27, that I realized that everything good, bad and utterly heartbreaking happens for a reason… It serves a purpose in the trajectory of your life, it may be hard, it may be unbelievable, you may fight it with every ounce of who you are but someday you will look back and see how every piece of the puzzle fits. This realization happened for me as I drove to a concert one night with a friend, and as she talked about the boy who had left her hurt and broken, I began to think about the boy who had once reduced me to a similar state and suddenly, like a vision from the almighty, I saw the life that I would have lived with him and I realized that it wasn’t what I really wanted at all. I realized that I wouldn’t be right where I was in that moment if I had gotten what I wanted, what I thought was best, what I had planned. I realized that the wild and crazy girl that I had been trying for years to silence would have remained forever bound and gagged in a life that was not meant to be hers. It was as my life advisor, Oprah, often says “a holy moment” and I knew right then and there that I was not only going to be ok, but that my life was going to be fabulous from that moment on!

I went home that night and started writing down everything that I wanted to do before I turned 30, things that I had been putting off for years, things that served only one purpose: to make me happy… Guess what? Clearly God laughed again because I haven’t marked off half of the things on that little list, but it is and will remain throughout my life, one of my most prized possessions. Why you ask? Because it represents the beginning of a new life, it represents the day that I started to believe that my life was filled with possibility, it represents the day that the wild and crazy girl I had been trying to deny for the greater part of my life peeked her head around the corner and started to emerge… And this time, I didn’t try to push her back below the surface, I simply set her me free!

In the past three years I feel that I have lived more fully, experienced more joy and learned more about life and myself than I ever did in the previous 27. I have learned, but not perfected, that life is short and never guaranteed so you better live it while you’ve got it to live. I have learned that you can’t make everyone happy all the time, therefore you have to do what makes you happy and simply do your best with all the rest. I have learned that the love you seek doesn’t always come in the form of your perfect Prince Charming, sometimes it comes from parents who believe the sun rises and sets on you, sometimes it comes from friends who are ever by your side, rooting you on and believing in every dream you pursue and sometimes it comes from nieces and nephews and godchildren galore that warm your life with their hugs and kisses and smiles that ooze love in its purest form. And sorry Jerry McGuire, but I have learned that it takes two complete people to create a complete relationship, so don’t go looking to someone else to fill the hole inside of you because that is no ones responsibility but your own. I have learned that sometimes you wake up in the morning thinking it is nothing more than an ordinary day and next thing you know you’re having a conversation on the telephone with Sheri Salata (aka Oprah Winfrey’s executive producer) or by some universal force you end up at the right place at just the right time and bump into David Cook on the streets of Washington, D.C. Clearly, from such experiences, I have learned that every day has the potential to be the next best day of your life! I have learned that most people, including Sheri and David, are genuine and kind and want to do good in the world. I have learned that everyone, good or bad, has a story to tell and I have learned that their stories intrigue me…

Most of all, I think I have learned that I am responsible for my own happiness and while the people in my life can and certainly do add to it, they cannot be expected to create it for me. And, if I could pass along any advice from this journey of mine, it would be this: Never attempt to silence your true self and throw the plan out the window! It is no coincidence that as a child I was always fascinated with the cool carefree aunt characters of my favorite television shows (i.e. Aunt Jackie from “Roseanne”) because I’ve kind of become that character in my own life, only slightly less neurotic… It is no coincidence that I longed to be the kooky grandmother who had fabulous stories to tell from her younger days, because I can assure you, should I ever have children and grandchildren, I will never miss an opportunity to tell them in great detail about how when mommy was young she met rock stars and chatted with extremely powerful women and traveled the world and chased her dreams until they became reality. It turns out that these childhood dreams and fascinations were in actuality a premonition of the life that awaited me, even as a small child that crazy carefree girl was trying to tell me something about my future. It took a while for her to get my attention, but oh how grateful I am that she’s finally been set free and living the life she was meant to live. And, as far as plans go, while I definitely recommend setting goals for your future, I will say this… Sometimes plans change, and that’s ok, do not fall apart when this happens! I assure you it’s happening for a reason and I promise, if you will simply relax and be willing to ride the wave, wherever you end up will be so much better than you ever imagined it could be, so much better than you ever planned…

So, this is it… Today I turn 30! As I walk into this next chapter of my life I go knowing that wherever I am today, it’s ok. And, wherever I go tomorrow, that’ll be ok too. It’s ok that today I am 30 and I still have 2/3 of my list waiting to be marked off. It’s ok that I haven’t bought a house yet or that I didn’t get that tattoo, it’s ok that I haven’t met Oprah or learned to ski. It’s ok because I know I am living as fully as I can in this moment and when it’s time, it’ll happen… And for all of the things I have yet to do I carry the memories of the things I have done, going to Vegas and running a half marathon, going to the Oprah Winfrey show during the final season and taking ballroom dance lessons… All of these experiences I will take to the grave with immense joy and satisfaction, knowing that they are now part of my life story. And, if it took 27 years to let that crazy girl inside be free, then so be it, because I wouldn’t take anything for the journey that has brought me to this point… It has made me the now 30 year old woman I am today and I think I like her just fine!

So, this is it… Today I turn 30, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds… Somewhere within myself, I hear that crazy girl saying “Turn the page Amanda, the next chapter begins now, and it’s going to be spectacular!”

 

*I would love to say thank you to anyone who has read anything I’ve written about these crazy times over the past three years! I love you all and I’m forever grateful for your continued love and support!!! Onward and upward, the best is yet to be:)*