When I was a little girl, I always saw 35 as the beginning of the end, the point where I would suddenly become old.
Now that my 35th birthday is just a few weeks away, I find I'm not as decrepit as I thought I'd be. I'm not quite as together as I anticipated, either, but it turns out I still have time to deal with that.
After spending more than 34 years laying a foundation, it's time to spend some time repairing the cracks before I move on to the next phase in my life, which I'm calling "Book the Second: The Middle Years." It's a bit pretentious, but it takes the sting out of admitting I'm hitting middle age.
I'm the type of person who can sail through December without a thought to making resolutions, and spend January feeling superior about not breaking any.
Birthdays are different, though. They always make me pause and reflect on where I've been and where I want to go.
The middle years are going to hold many changes. My living situation is already different. Career-wise, I'm headed down a path I never imagined the day I entered the Ka Leo O Hawaii newsroom looking for a job. My kids are growing older and presenting new challenges by the day.
I feel I'm up for whatever life throws me. Recent events have shown me I have a reservoir of strength I never knew I had. I don't quite think I can take on the world, but I'm definitely up for setting some long-term goals, since I can give myself a good 35 years to achieve them.
Home ownership is near the top of the list, but before I take that step, I need to make some lifestyle changes. If I have any homemaker tendencies, they're buried far deeper than that inner strength that I managed to uncover, but I guess I have some time to try digging them out while I'm waiting for my salary to rise or home prices to drop.
I have some stuff to deal with emotionally, too. I need to learn to trust my real friends and stop putting my faith in the wrong people. I need to let go of the past and stop repeating the same mistakes. Most of all, when I realize I'm fighting losing battles, I have to allow myself to surrender.
One of the hardest things I'll have to accomplish is learning to accept myself, as well as accept that some people aren't going to like who I am, regardless of whether I say "yes" or "no."
For Christmas, a good friend gave me a copy of "The Precious Present" by Spencer Johnson. These lines resonated with me:
"Pain is simply the difference between what is and what I want it to be.
"When I feel guilty over my imperfect past, or I am anxious over my unknown future, I do not live in the present. I experience pain. I make myself ill. And I am unhappy."
When I hit 35 next month, I will attempt to do so without regretting "Book the First: The Youthful Years" and look for peace in the current installment.
I'll also enjoy the cake.