This post is by Leigh Kramer, our Pilgrim in Residence for the month of November. Every journey offers an invitation to deeper self-awareness, and as our Pilgrim in Residence this month, Leigh is sharing stories of her ongoing journey of self-discovery each week here at A Sacred Journey. Learn more about Leigh here. -Lacy
I’m conceding defeat.
California is not in my future come January. I’d hoped to celebrate my 35th birthday there but it turns out paying my bills and affording to eat is more of a priority. Ho hum.
My cousins have lived in San Francisco at least 15 years now and each of those years I’ve expressed my hope to visit soon. I hardly ever get to see Clara and Emily because of the distance and I suppose I have romanticized this future visit as a result. Still, they’re my only girl cousins on my mom’s side of the family and I like the idea of us having time together, just us three.
I especially liked the idea of celebrating my birthday with them and a few friends who also live in San Francisco. I hoped 2015 would be the year I finally made it out to California for the first time. A trip might serve as a way to not only mark the occasion but set the tone for the year to come. And oh how I want 35 to be a good, monumental year.
Alas, I’m putting my birthday dream back on a shelf. While vacations have come out of near nothing in the past, I don’t have any magic tricks at my disposal this time around. No crazy airline deals have fallen into my lap, no unexpected windfall of cash. I tell myself this is what happens when you’re in a season of transition. I return to 15 years of litany: California will happen someday.
Truthfully, I want it now. I could stand for the bright hope of a trip around the corner. I could do with some good news amidst the uncertainty.
I spent my 30th birthday in Asheville, NC with my mom. It was the first time we’d vacationed together just the two of us and I couldn’t imagine a better way to ring in my 30s. In stark contrast to those who dreaded leaving their 20s, I’d spent nearly a year determined to approach my 30th with excitement and welcome. However, I was fairly certain staying in Illinois for the big day would wreck me. I didn’t want to plan my own party or deal with RSVPs or no shows. I needed my birthday to be somewhere entirely different than home. I needed to set the tone.
Thus, a birthday trip was born.
I don’t remember feeling the need to travel on my 25th birthday, though I had mixed feelings about turning that particular age. I was underemployed (oh the irony a decade later) and had no way of knowing it would take another 9 months before I finally found employment as a social worker. In total, I spent a year and a half looking for social work jobs after graduating with my MSW. That wasn’t what 25 was supposed to look like.
I played some variation of that game throughout my 20s. “This isn’t what (insert age) is supposed to look like.” Since reaching my 30s, however, I’ve come to accept I had no idea what any age should look like. In high school and college, I had such a limited notion of what my life could look like. My younger self would be fairly impressed by the places I’ve gone, the people I’ve met, and the things I’ve done.
With 35 around the corner, I’m feeling that same itch to travel, to do things differently. I feel most alive when I travel and this appeals to me with a milestone birthday. The perfect way to greet a new year. Or perhaps I simply want to be in a warmer climate in January.
Whatever the reason, I have to accept I’m staying put. I’ll celebrate in Nashville, just as I have the previous 4 birthdays, and it will have to be enough.
It makes me wonder what I might learn in the process. The majority of trips I’ve taken in the past decade have changed me in ways big and small. But moving to Nashville has refined me just as much. Why, then, this resistance to marking another milestone here?
Of course, where I celebrate will not determine the kind of year I have. It ultimately comes down to my attitude and my approach, my ability to seek out magic in the mundane, to find wonder in the ordinary. I will matter as much at dinner with dear friends as I would in San Francisco. 35 will be my best year yet.
I’m going to embrace celebrating another birthday where I am. It just might surprise me after all.
In what seasons in life have you had to learn accept things just as they are? What did you discover from the experience? Share your response to the question or the post in the comments.