I turned 40 a couple weeks ago and I had that brief crisis of "oh my god, I still haven't done (this and that and this)...." As a narrative worker, I realized that was entirely the wrong approach, so instead I wrote a list of all the things I have done.
Here are 40 things I have accomplished/am proud of/grateful at this milestone:
1- I have fallen in love, more than once and there has been more than one “love of my life.” I am deeply grateful for all of these people and experiences.
2- I learned that it’s okay to be afraid and also to ask for help.
3- I learned that no friendship or romantic love is worth compromising the self, in value, potential, or growth.
4- I made a lot of mistakes. I have hurt others, made bad choices, been arrested, and generally fucked up, but have made peace with my past. I have forgiven myself for these mistakes and value them as part of my learnings.
5- I gave birth (twice). I have learned to appreciate the challenges and joys of raising two humans.
6- I learned how to accept a new identity in motherhood and parenting and also surprised myself with this innate ability to love and care for others.
7- I learned a foreign language and have lived in a foreign country for 8 years.
8- I have forgiven everyone in my past whom I believed has hurt me.
9- I learned to love and appreciate my parents as human, their strengths and their flaws. I learned to focus on their amazing qualities and gifts to me, rather than anything else (at all).
10- I developed deep and lasting relationships with my siblings and cannot overstate my appreciation for our history together.
11- I confronted a decades-long battle with depression and anxiety and finally got on medication that changed my life.
12- I learned to acknowledge myself as an artist and creator and what it means to give myself to those endeavors. I quit a six-figure job so that I could make art.
13- I learned to play guitar, write songs, sing and record, edit and make beats, and play with music.
14- I made a short film with A and showed this film at a festival. It was kind of a bomb, but I learned a lot about making art and the art of failing.
15- I have written hundreds of poems and songs, published short stories and essays, and have two unpublished manuscripts that I still want to deliver to the world.
16- I created a podcast and got to interview and learn from people who I genuinely admire and look up to. In this endeavor, I faced my struggle with long-term projects and commitments.
17- I got degrees in Anthropology, English, a Juris Doctor, and started a Ph.D. in literature. I learned that formal education does not make up for daring, experimenting, and living.
18- I have lived in multiple cities, states, and countries, and loved the diversity of these places. I also learned the value of community, establishing roots, and staying put.
19- I passed the BAR exam and was licensed as an attorney.
20- As a lawyer, I worked for the ACLU and represented prison inmates in Minnesota, also worked for a women’s rights NGO and represented victims of domestic abuse.
21- I have been employed by international news companies, tech companies, magazines, law firms, but still the most challenging and rewarding, has been working for myself.
22- I faced my addiction to drugs and alcohol and will celebrate five years of sobriety next month.
23- I have studied different healing methods- meditation, tapping, recovery methods, narrative therapy, and am grateful to teach what has worked for me to others.
24- I started a business focused on my passion for self-transformation and personal healing.
25- I have worked with clients all over the world and feel truly grateful when I am able to help towards personal acceptance, love, and healing.
26- I learned that some of my perceptions and experiences are shaped by capitalism, patriarchy, genetics, and generational illnesses and trauma that are not my fault. I stopped blaming myself for these experiences and attributes.
27- I learned that my role as a mother is not to take away my children’s pain but to teach them how to live through it.
28- I have cultivated a deep appreciation for language and words and also have confronted their limitations, the truth that many feelings, sentiments, and realities, are beyond articulation. Sometimes there literally are, no words.
29- I taught myself how to draw and paint and am continuing to learn more about different techniques and visual expression through different forms and mixed media.
30- My sculpture and a mixed media pieces were once displayed at a gallery.
31- I have learned to value my opinion of myself more than others’ opinions of me. I learned to stop people pleasing- to be okay with the reality that not everyone will like me.
32- I have learned to be present, to revere my sensory experience, to continue to be grateful to be in the world.
33- I survived experiences that could have taken my life: a near-fatal condition at birth, falling off the roof of building, alcohol poisoning, getting swept into waterfall and falling from a mountain ledge, car accidents and other dangerous encounters. I have been more than lucky.
34- I have learned to love and revere my body even as it ages and weakens, that no flaw or imperfection is greater than what it has helped me do and experience.
35- I traveled around the world alone, encountered my own privilege and was gifted the kindness of strangers. Some of these strangers lent me money, gave me shelter, and even saved my life.
36- I have been gifted genuine friendship through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood and I am continually in awe of the way that these friendships have adapted and shifted over time. I am grateful for all of the friends that have made their way in and out of my life over the years.
37- Though it is still difficult for me, I have learned to speak my truth and set boundaries.
38- I have mended all of my relationships that were damaged in the past, and (to my knowledge) taken responsibility where I have caused harm.
39- I have learned to value myself at all stages of life- to see myself as past, present, and future and to honor the timelessness of being, not to judge where I have been or fear where I am going.
40- I have learned to focus on what I am, instead of what I am not, what I have instead of what I do not, what I have done, versus what I have not done, what is instead of what is not. I know this is a choice I have to continue to make.
I am feeling grateful and blessed this season, feeling the power of self-awareness and transformation.