When we’re little our growth is charted by developmental milestones. By two months we should be smiling, cooing, looking for our parents. By one year we should have favorite things/people, follow simple directions, be able to stand or take a few steps with help. By five years we should want to be like our friends, speak clearly, be able to use utensils. The CDC stops milestone lists at five, after that growth is kind of on your own pace. But is it really? Or are there unspoken developmental milestones we ‘should’ be meeting? We go should go to college and finish in four years. We should know our career path by our late 20s. By our early 30s we should be settled down with a partner and thinking about kids. As adults if we aren’t meeting our developmental milestones there aren’t tests for contributing factors, specialized programs to help us catch up, nobody talks to our parents about it.
As a disclaimer this is, in fact, a birthday post. I use birthdays as a performance review for life. Probably not the best thing in the world as it creates overwhelming anxiety around something that should be delightful. Did I do enough? Accomplish enough? Grow enough? The answer is usually no. Because starting at age five we should want to be like our friends, our peers, and I’m not. I’m not meeting developmental milestones and I’m not sure if I have the desire to meet them.
Hi, it’s me again. I sat on this post for a bit and didn’t know where to take it. I could have scrapped it and started fresh but I wanted you to see the beginning and where I landed. Onward...
It’s been a series of hard birthdays. At twenty-eight I was walking away from the only job/company I had ever known that caused me to question a lot about myself. Twenty-nine has inherent “last year in your 20s” pressure. Thirty became kind of a “this will totally be my year” thing and it wasn’t. Thirty-one is my ‘golden year’, thirty-one on the 31st. Approaching it felt like the end of a year of failure. Things I wanted to work out haven’t yet and because I’m an evaluator who looks at life like a checklist; I felt like I failed. I didn’t meet the rubric I had set for the year. In my mind it meant I wasn’t good enough, I wasted the year. Last night, my last night of being thirty, I realized it doesn’t matter. What’s ahead doesn’t matter, what is behind me doesn’t matter. All that matters is doing the best I can for myself right here and right now. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “To be mature you have to realize what you value most. It is extraordinary to discover that comparatively few people reach this level of maturity. They seem never to have paused to consider what has value for them. They spend great effort and sometimes make great sacrifices for values that, fundamentally, meet no real needs of their own. Perhaps they have imbibed the values of their particular profession or job, of their community or their neighbors, of their parents or family. Not to arrive at a clear understanding of one’s own values is a tragic waste. You have missed the whole point of what life is for.”
Maybe that’s what will make this year golden, that realization. Checklist don’t matter. What should and shouldn’t be done doesn’t matter. I don’t have to meet anyone’s expectations, even my own, my success is living each moment in way that feels true to myself in that space. With that I say, “Cheers to the year ahead!”