This week, Wednesday June 25th to be exact, was my 26th Birthday! Or as I like to say, 21st….point five….my 21st birthday, you know, again. For the fifth time.
It was actually a wonderful day. I’ve always had this superstitious belief that whatever your actual birthday was like was sort of a premonition of the year to come. Very similar to the superstition I believe about Halloween where whatever costume you dress up in, the traits of that character/person/thing are the ones you’ll subconsciously manifest within yourself in the following year (which is exactly why I was a tiger this Halloween, I needed a FIERCE year where I went out and took what I wanted). Do you think I’m crazy yet?
Anyway, this was a great day full of love, family, bright sunshine and warm summer heat. I felt loved, I felt beautiful, I felt happy.
And I got birthday lovin’ from this lil dude, so…win.
I also realized a couple of things…
Every year on my birthday I like to set a goal, or rather an intention for myself of what the predominant focus of the year will be. I started this on my 20th birthday. As I headed into a new decade I decided that I would set some sort of intention that would benefit both my physical and mental health, my relationships and my happiness/wellness. Something I could focus on each year, even if it was just a small something that I could build upon each following year and carry into the next decade.
On my 20th birthday my intention focused on my fitness. I promised myself I would make fitness a priority so that I could build the foundation of a fit, muscular, developed and healthy body that I could maintain into my 30s. I set a goal to run my first half marathon shortly after my 20th birthday and decided I would set a fitness goal every year to keep myself on track. I’ve stuck with it and have since run four half marathons, one Tough Mudder and competed in two (and one first place in both!) international fitness competitions. My intention for my 22nd birthday focused on appreciating travel and opening myself up to and learning about new cultures. My 23rd birthday focused on my relationship with Dan and narrowing in on my passions and finding things that truly made me happy. I narrowed in on my favorite hobby, working out, and competed in my first fitness competition. My 24th birthday focused on finishing school and planning a wedding.
My 25th birthday was the toughest. It was a transitional year in EVERY sense of the word and I am not great with transitions. My 25th birthday included the shift of an “early twenty-something” to a “late twenty-something”, the shift from single to married, the shift from student to wife/adult/resident of the real world. My 25th birthday was a LOT about learning how to stand on my own two feet, discovering who I was, owning it and defending it. That was actually incredibly challenging because at the time I honestly was not sure of who I was or what, exactly, it was that I wanted. However, it seemed like the sand in my hourglass was down to only a few tiny pebbles and everyone I knew was hovering over me shouting out multiple different directions and screaming at me to PICK ONE!
That’s EXACTLY what this passed year has felt like. It’s been a rocky road of “establishing” myself. However, I wasn’t really sure WHAT I was establishing. It was as if I was building a house. Granted, I had a GREAT foundation. The only problem was that, somehow, that great foundation of mine got hit by a reeeealllyyyy bad hurricane, a hurricane SO bad that the foundation sort of shattered. I realized two things that may not make sense. First, my foundation wasn’t exactly as strong as I thought it was. Secondly, I was a lot stronger than I thought I was. My foundation had shattered, but it hadn’t completely crumbled. The pieces that were left were still fairly strong in their own right. Now it had become like a puzzle and it was up to me to figure out HOW the pieces went back together. Of course, everyone was telling me different ways to put it back to together but at the end of the day it was my house and I was the one who had to live in it. So, I lived in that shattered foundation for a while and felt it out. I needed to find the pieces that I really loved. I realized that it didn’t matter what anyone else said, it didn’t matter how it looked to others…all that mattered was that I used the pieces that I was truly and unconditionally passionate about. No matter how strong they were, no matter what pieces I used, if I didn’t build that house with love and passion it would never stay together.
This may sound abstract. It kind of is. It also didn’t make sense until I put it all together and I didn’t really realize I was doing it until it happened. I realized that my 26th year is the year of my career.
I spent years upon years upon years working towards what I thought was a career. For some reason, I never really believed that a career was a choice. My whole life it seemed like everyone who worked just worked. They scrambled to get there in the morning, they spent the day there, they complained about it, they were happy to be home, they referred to “the real world” as some empty black hole that was ominously approaching, so “enjoy your youth while you can!”. It seemed like a “career”=a sad, empty cubicle, time spent around people you don’t even like and an overarching sense of dull misery, not enough to make you outright depressed but enough dim the lights.
So I went to school. Sometimes I loved it, sometimes I hated it. Every single day I asked myself, if I do this all day, will I be happy? Most often the answer to that question was another question…I honestly don’t know. In college I chose two majors-Philosophy and Psychology, because those were the two subjects I enjoyed reading about and learning about the most. They were the classes in which I didn’t dread going to class and writing papers for. At the time I chose my major I also started a new job at a gym as a personal trainer. I did my school work and for fun I spent countless hours reading books about workout progressions, body building and nutrition. In between my classes I’d run to the gym for a quick workout or run and return to class in sweat soaked clothes, wet haired and red faced. More often than not I found myself sitting in class wishing I could be at work at the gym instead. The gym was my happy place. I couldn’t wait to get there.
Nevertheless, come my senior year of college I filled out the applications for graduate school. I went on to earn my masters degree in Applied Psychology. At first the classes were challenging, as was adjusting to a new setting. Quickly though, they became boring and repetitive. Once again I found my release at the gym. I ran a couple more half marathons, I competed in fitness shows, I identified myself more as a “fit girl” and a “trainer” than I did a “psych major” or “grad student”. Then I did my first internship in applied psychology where I spent the mornings before my intern hours crying in my car because I dreaded going in. While I was there I miserably counted down the hours. As soon as my hours were up I would race to the gym and work out. This was the year I immersed myself in the world of Spinning. I needed a community outside of the world of mental health. Spinning was my release. It got me through the day. I wasn’t just an intern, I wasn’t just a therapist in training, I was a Spinning Instructor, I helped people get fit and healthy.
What was supposed to be my job, my career made me utterly miserable. I told myself I would always teach Spinning. It would be something I’d be able to do on the side, not even for the extra money but for the happiness it brought me. I would always have that to lean on while I simply got by at my miserable job.
Then I graduated from graduate school, got my masters degree, turned 25 and completely lost it. I wasn’t going to be happy. I wasn’t even going to be making that much money AND I’d be miserable! Where in God’s name was the silver lining? What was I doing? I couldn’t do it. I refused to look for a job. I needed time. I couldn’t sit at a desk. Everyone who worked at the agency I interned at seemed miserable. Unhappy. Stagnant. That couldn’t be my future. That couldn’t be me. I picked up some more private training clients that summer. Training made me happy. I didn’t care where it was, I didn’t care what time I did it, I loved it. I started working at a gym again, a different one, training and teaching group fitness. Then we got married and I started working at a cycling studio. Work didn’t feel like work! However, that was because it wasn’t work. It wasn’t full time, it didn’t offer me any room for growth, I was bouncing around between multiple places and had no “home”. I was happy, but still anxious. In the back of my head I knew it was fleeting. This wasn’t a career.
I kept at it though. I loved it. I was actually pretty good at it too. While teaching classes I found myself connecting to people and actually, really helping them in the ways I always wanted to but never could during my internship. I was helping people find goals, work towards them and reach them. I was seeing progress, I was seeing HAPPINESS. Why did this have to just be a hobby?
I tried to stay positive, or delusional as my husband thought. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that if I really loved this, if this truly was my passion, then if I just kept at it I would eventually get there. Although, I wasn’t quite sure where “there” was.
For whatever reason though, I’ve found it. I’ve been doing it for seven years. All this time it has been right under my nose. I spent so much time listening to others and doing whatever I thought I was “supposed” to do. What about what I want? I want to connect with others. I want to be a part of a community where I’m inspired and motivated by others and they’re inspired and motivated by me. I want to help people be the best version of themselves and I want a career that I l0ve; one that never feels like work.
The career that I want is the career I’ve had all along. It’s the one I’ve always written off as just a “job”. Maybe because of the influence of others. Maybe I listened to the outside voices more than my heart. I only shifted my focus completely on to fitness recently and already I’ve made incredible progress. I’m doing something I never thought I’d be doing, in a place I NEVER thought I’d be. I do believe that if you truly love something and work at it, it will find you.
26 is the year that I’ve found that focus, that purpose. This is the year that I narrow in on it and work at it. Finally, I feel like I have a direction to work towards and I’m diving in, swimming forward and never looking back.
I almost bought this Dream Catcher as a birthday gift for myself…I may go back and get it this week just as a reminder to continue to chase my dreams.
Cheers to 26 years!
PS…I did set a physical intention for this year too….to WALK more. ;)