This month, I turn 30. It got me thinking about the movie 13 Going on 30, which is almost 20 years old! In the movie, she wishes to be “thirty, flirty, and thriving” in her dream life, and I have been reflecting a lot about my life and where I am right now.
Time is funny, and sometimes life feels like we have full-circle moments.
Before I got married, my husband and I lived in Surrey, in the UK, and we had a neighbor who would play with her kids. We’d hear the same noise from her through the wall all the time and could never make sense of it.
This week, in our kitchen in Connecticut, we found ourselves making that same silly noise playing with our son. It took me back to a time in my life when I was still trying to figure out what came next. We’d both just graduated, lived in a comfortable home, both had a job we enjoyed, and I loved the people I worked with. Plus (total luxury), we had family living close by.
But I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were living the wrong life. There was a moment when we both mutually agreed that this wasn’t it. We needed something different.
There are many points in my life where I’d love to go back in time and tell my past self to hold on a little bit longer. I’m unsure I could tell my younger self I’d be thirty, flirty, and thriving. Motherhood is too chaotic and tiring to define me as thriving – it’s more like ‘Thirty, flirty and surviving.’
I’ve always been very conscious about my choices. Most moments, I can pinpoint when I made a life choice and have mapped out a plan in my mind. I’m a life planner and prefer to make choices ten steps ahead.
The last few weeks, as I’ve been reflecting on my first 30 years on Earth, I’ve been keeping a list of things I would go back and tell my younger self, should I end up in a closet that takes me back in time – a kind of love letter to my past self.
To my 16-year-old self…
Yes, you’ve felt pretty average and feel like you’ve done okay in school. You love to learn, but it never seems to click. It turns out it’s not you; it’s the system. Don’t think twice about it; do enough to get through it and into the next stage of education because no one will care once you have your Master’s degree. You’ll teach yourself how to learn and go on to show others how they can think about their future outside of the education system we are boxed into.
To my 18-year-old self…
Yes, you’ll get judgment about your university choice and probably even more judgment because you are going to the same university as your boyfriend (future husband). It is one of your best choices, even though not one of your teachers understood it.
To my 20-year-old self…
Don’t stop saying yes. You’re trying to do it all, and everyone wonders if you’re taking on too much, but this is exactly the point in your life when you should. There will be other times when you take time out, make sacrifices for your family, and need to step back, so do it all now while you have the time and energy.
To my 24-year-old self…
Enjoy the travel. Believe it or not, you’ll actually miss Romania one day. (You’ll definitely be that mother taking her American kids on a tour of Europe trying to teach them about European history). Keep a diary because you can’t remember all the places you visited.
To my 26-year-old self…
When you get a call at work from your husband-to-be asking if you want to move to White Plains, NY, don’t hesitate. You don’t have everything figured out, but you shouldn’t overthink it. Pack a couple of suitcases, throw everything else out, and know it’s the startover you need.
My 28-year-old self…
You’re going to be tested. Being a stay-at-home mom will be one of the most challenging yet rewarding things you’ve done. It’s a challenge because it’s so unlike you to stop and not feel like you’re progressing, but on the other hand, it’s the best thing for your family, and you get to see every minute of the best tiny human you’ve ever met growing and exploring the world. Eventually, you’ll return to work and feel like he’s all grown up.
Recent years feel like they will be the best years without me knowing it. I’ll look back on this time as the glory days with the chaos of motherhood and watching my son learn new things every day. Now, on to the next thirty years!