Today is my 31st birthday. I don’t know how I expected to feel at 31 when I was younger, but I don’t think this is it. Perhaps the best word is hopeful.
I know most people make a big deal about their 30th birthday, but for me, the gap between 30 and 31 seemed far bigger than 29 and 30. Last year, I was on the cusp of life changes, five months pregnant and heading into my third decade. This year, I am thoroughly entrenched in mommyhood, my entire world influenced by the little being who entered my life last June.
Part of this difference is the speed of my life in the last five years compared to the five before. I had the same job and lived in the same city for the five years before this one (2008-2013). The only major change was that we bought a house, although that didn’t affect my daily life as much one might think. In comparison, in the previous five years before, I lived in five different neighborhoods on two different continents, held seven different jobs (including internships), graduated college, got married and earned my masters degree. Just thinking about that constant change is tiring! So having an upheaval in my life again after five years of calm made the last year seem much longer than the one before.
Fortunately, this has been one of the best years of my life. I’ve taken to motherhood even better than I anticipated. While I still sometimes panic at my incompetency, I feel much more comfortable in the role than I thought I would. More importantly, I absolutely love it. Once we got past the almost impossibly hard first two months, it’s kept getting better. Not every day is rainbows and even my baby can be pretty gross, but there are more times than not that I feel overwhelmingly lucky. I’m still tired almost All of the Time, but it’s usually the feeling of accomplishment, not desperation. Sprout is an amazing little person and I feel so blessed to be his mom. He even gave me a birthday present, although obviously not of his own accord. Last night, after four months of teething, he finally got one of his teeth in! (And he didn’t even bite me.) While some people regret the loss of “wild and crazy” times in their 20s or before children, I never really had that anyway. I’ve never drank much and hardly went out in D.C. because Chris worked weekend nights. In fact, now we’re doing more on weekends with Sprout than we did before he was born. We’ve already visited art museums, gamed with friends, and traveled home to our families. This summer, we look forward to hiking, camping, and biking. And although we see our friends less than we did, we still maintain those friendships. At my birthday party yesterday when I was apologizing for our lack of seats, my friend Leslie said, “Shannon, you don’t have a lack of seats. You have a surfeit of friends.” For someone who has always been socially awkward, it was phenomenal to realize that.
Besides the obvious, this year had a key difference from all of my previous best years – its potential. Most of the previous best years of my life, like my senior years of high school and college, came at the end of a stage of life. I had settled in, made friends and felt comfortable, but then needed to leave. Even a lot of the enjoyment during the year I got married was from living in the U.K. and attending grad school, which was only a year long. (I had a compressed program.)
In contrast, this year is the beginning of an era, just a preview of what is to come. I feel experienced, but far from old. And I’m genuinely excited to see what comes next.