A birthday reflection. Complete with disco ball.

I still remember the day in sixth grade when my best friend Hally and I sat down and calculated how old we would turn in 2000. The answer was 32.

I had a pretty clear picture of how my life would be then: I’d would be living in the city, most likely down in the Village in the same building on 8th Street and Mercer where I got my hair cut by Anita, the punk rock stylist, with the hot pink leather couch to match the streak in her hair, and the zebra rug and the shiny black Felix clock. I’d have a pink streak too only me, I would have a bigger apartment–a loft probably. Whatever that means, but it sounds cool, right? And I’d have a small round roller rink in the living room–nothing major, just for practicing spins. And I would have to raise the ceilings to get a disco ball up there, but that wouldn’t be too hard, right? I didn’t think I would be married yet, because world-famous writers didn’t do that quite so soon (I mean, just look at Fran Liebowitz!) but I would have a lot of boyfriends. Maybe three at a time. They would have cool names too, like Mark and Scott. And I’d have a lot of roller skating parties. Probably an MG Convertible too.

Oddly, the fantasizing about our future lives sort of ended at the millennium. Like I never even considered that there was life after 32.

And now here I am, ten years later, turning 42.

How did that happen?

I think the older I get, the less conventionally celebratory I become. Not that I don’t love birthdays. But I do think that having a 9/11 birthday in New York City kind of tones the celebration down, and forces you to be more reflective than you might be otherwise, taking stock of your life and what really matters. Because let’s face it, one morning you wake up to a gorgeous, clear blue sky and the next, there are two ginormous towers crumbling into toxic dust right in front of your eyes.

Honestly, these days I’d rather spend an hour with my toes in a salon pedicure bath and my head buried in the crossword, than at a bar doing shots with friends. Although come to think of it, today I plan on doing both. So there.

A lot has changed for me this year. I went back to work full-time, while still somehow managing to run Cool Mom Picks. Uh, also full time. I have two girls who are old enough to need me, and to really really feel it when I’m not there for them. I have a sigOth who’s now working actual daytime hours for the first time since I’ve known him, meaning we’re almost like a normal family these days.

Well, not really. But normal for us.

It’s all forced me to cut back on my blogging here–let alone my blog reading and my blog commenting–which makes me die a little inside, but is also what I have to do right now. And I think that part of this boring-getting-older-maturity kind of business is just that; putting the needs above the wants. My id is pissed. It will get over it.

This doesn’t mean I’m all business though. I’ve also felt more urgency to do the things now that I have always dreamed about–traveling more, writing a book…hell, maybe Nate and I will even start planning a wedding one of these days. He did send me a text message this week that read Hey, quick birthday-related, nothing to get excited about question, but what ring size are you? Again, do not read into this…

(I did not read into it. Mostly.)

I’m not sure if all this reprioritization is about some annoyingly cliché, looming threat of mortality that becomes evident in your 40’s, or simply the understanding that this is the one life we get, whatever it may be. My mother always reminds me that there comes a point in middle-age when you simply have to acknowledge that you will not win more Oscars than Meryl Streep, or quarterback for the Giants, or marry Scott Baio. Or have that roller rink in your living room.

How you react to that understanding is what defines your character.

I choose to recognize that not achieving all dreams doesn’t mean I haven’t achieved any dreams. Besides, I’ve still got some time left.

You know what’s funny? When I was 32, I did live in the Village. In a sweet little loft, exactly 3 blocks from that apartment on 8th and Mercer. There was no roller rink in the living room, but I totally could have fit a small one in there, if only the co-op board wouldn’t have freaked out. I had a writing career and a few boyfriends and two shiny Ericofons from the same era as that Felix clock.

I liked where I was then, but I wouldn’t go back to it either.

I think what I’ve got going on now is pretty darn good.

Are you where you thought you’d be today?


46 thoughts on “A birthday reflection. Complete with disco ball.”

  1. Happy Birthday Liz! Enjoy all of the celebrating today!

    I am not where I thought I'd be, only because where I am is so much better than I could have imagined.

    But I'm so proud of everything I've done with my life while getting here…

    Have a fun birthday!

  2. No, I never did imagine myself as I am, today. Then again, I couldn't imagine waking up, every day, and being all, like, meh, so, here it is, just like I thought. How boring would that be?!?

    Happy birthday, my friend. May each new day be a BIG surprise, always!!!

  3. Are you where you thought you'd be today? begs the question of how to balance dreaming and expectation. Maybe dreaming is the vision that draws you into a potential future; expectation can be a demand that usually disappoints. Sounds like you managed to find that lovely place (of grace) in between. That's something else to celebrate. Happy day to you!

  4. Ah, the dreams of little girls grown up into something even better.

    This is where I am too, though I never in a million years would have anticipated finding my happy here.

    I wish you all the best, today and always. Happy birthday.

  5. Happy Birthday – and quite honestly, I am in a much better place – sitting on the couch, blogging while my cats laze in the sun, The Girl watches cartoons and The Boy (not The Baby, since he shares his birthday with you) is napping away the last hours until his first birthday.

  6. Ten years ago I thought that today I'd be living in Madrid with my sister, or maybe in the country with an Italian ex-pat who would help me raise our children trilingual…

    Well, I live in a tiny two-bedroom slightly west of Chicago with my Mexican husband (I'm Mexican-American and NEVER thought I'd marry a Mexican man) and my 3-year-old just gave Dave Seville a time-out because he was mean to the chipmunks in the movie that he's watching on the iPod. I'm about ready to pop with my second child and, even when I remember how good it used to be or the dreams I used to have, really there is absolutely nothing that could make me give up anything I have now. Life is just amazing sometimes.

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY LIZ! And thanks for sharing your story with us through your blog 🙂

  7. Happy birthday! Love the picture of your family. Hug them all, run out for a pedi and then find somewhere with a disco ball to do your shots tonight.

    I'm not where I thought I'd be, but High-School-Me didn't know that I was going to have such an awesome daughter. She was a game-changer, for sure.

  8. Happy birthday, Liz! I never would have guessed that you were 42. I would have been hard pressed that you were older than your early thirties. Must be something in the water there!

  9. Gosh, I thought life ended at 40, so I'm pretty sure I never dreamed where I'd be at 43.

    And you have the wisest mama out there, but you know that, right?

    Happy Birthday my friend. So happy to have known you at just past 22, 32 and now at 42.

  10. Delurking to say Happy Birthday! I love the picture at the end of the post.

    I am nowhere near where I thought I'd be and that's ok. It's just a different place. I'll get there someday.

    Hope you have a great day.

  11. Happy Birthday. I am definitely not where I thought I'd be or doing …

    By now, I thought I'd be a grandmother. I am a mother of 8 year old boys twins.

    I thought I'd be living in Australia. I've now lived in the U.S. for more than a decade and some years in France.

    I thought I'd marry some crazy artistic type. Instead, I've been living with a dry rational economist for 23 years without marriage.

    And I never ever imagined what happened on Sept 11 nine years ago, or expected to still feel that shiver of anxiety, fear and horror that it still brings.

    You should enjoy your birthday … because who knows what tomorrow will bring.

    Now does that sound too gloomy? Hope not.

  12. Happy birthday! & I have to agree with Avitable – never would've guessed.

    As far as the question goes, the life I'm living isn't the life I'd planned. For all the studying and traveling I thought I'd be living somewhere more exotic than the Midwest. But, while it's not what I'd expected – I'm very happy.

  13. Happy birthday! I just turned 41 and I've come to terms that I'm really OK that I'm not ever going to be a VP of corp blah blah blah whatever at a big company, which is honestly something I thought I might go for when I was 31.

    But I do have an awesome family, good friends, and most of the time a part time career and blog career that are pretty darn cool.

    I am in the burbs, though. But I don't drive a minivan. (yet…ha ha)

    Enjoy your weekend…cheers!!!

  14. Happy Birthday, Liz! Enjoy the pedi AND the shots 🙂

    Oh, and never in my wildest dreams did I picture myself living in KENTUCKY! But, here we are, and we actually love it 🙂

  15. When you were in the 6th grade and I was 38 I never imagined that I would have a friend in you, one who would often show ME the way. I never thought that four little girls could rearrange my life or that my basement would be overflowing with toys. It's only in the small quiet moments that we have the time to reflect on what we've made of this life, how lucky we are, and how many miles we've yet to travel. Happy Birthday, dearest Pumpkin.

  16. Happy 22nd, mama.

    I couldn't have imagined it in a million years – and the thought of that is remarkably amazing, exciting, and inspiring.

  17. When I was a kid, I thought cars would fly by now. Perhaps I'll be lucky enough to see that before I go.

    I certainly didn't think I'd be a stay-at-home mom living in suburbia, who cuts her too-big yard with a tractor, bakes bread, enjoys gardening and owns a sewing machine. Ew.

    Have a very, happy birthday, Liz. You are a cool cat indeed.

  18. When I was a kid, I thought cars would fly by now. Perhaps I'll be lucky enough to see that before I go.

    I certainly didn't think I'd be a stay-at-home mom living in suburbia, who cuts her too-big yard with a tractor, bakes bread, enjoys gardening and owns a sewing machine. Ew.

    Have a very, happy birthday, Liz. You are a cool cat indeed.

  19. We're the same age…I didn't know that before. Welcome to 42. I hope your day has been spectacular!

    As for your question, yes, I'm right where I thought I'd be. I'm a SAHM, with a great husband and equally exceptional children. Only problem? I'm in the wrong state. Oh well. Could be worse.

  20. Another lurker here. Happy birthday Liz! Hope you had a great day.
    As for your question, I sometimes feel that I have walked a million miles to get to exactly where I am today.
    All the best!

  21. I'm 32 (almost 33) and if I can have your perspective and attitude about life 10 years from now I'll be psyched. I'm happy where I am, and hope that will continue! Thanks for the reminder. Happy birthday, too!

  22. Happy birthday!

    As for me, I think my life plans ended when I had kids. That was the 'happily ever after'. Only, not. 5 1/2 years on, and I'm still going, and I still have aspirations. Who would have known?

  23. Happy birthday!

    In my imaginings, I never got past 27. What was I thinking? Always 27. And here I am at 38 and, just today, I thought, “I feel more alive and more real and even more youthful than I did ten years ago!”

    Let's hope it works that way in another ten years!

  24. This was nice to read. I just wrote my own post last week about how we are living in The Good Old Days, and how lucky we are right now.


    My husband has been home from his deployment to Iraq for just over a month now, and we appreciate all the things that come with being a complete family even more.

    Happy birthday, and thank you for making time to write despite juggling so many things.

  25. Liz.

    Happy Birthday!

    I remember that conversation and the ones that followed about Y2K very clearly. 32 was the year that I would get married. I would be living in the village right down the block from you and my husband and I would enjoy getting to know Mark and Scott and all the rest of your funky boyfriends. I'd also have a house in Paris, from which I would be running my IHOP-France franchise.

    I don't think I ever gave any thought to life after 32. I still don't. I guess since I still haven't acheived my Y2K goals I'll just have to stay 31 for the time being.

    Love you.


  26. Just stumbled upon your blog. Love, love, love it! I've been searching the blogosphere for someone such as myself, who is reaching “the dawn of middle age” (a reference to Julia Roberts I saw in a movie review of Eat,Pray,Love – a reference I did not appreciate!). Just turning 41 myself, I do pine somewhat for all I haven't done, but feel as if I'm a much more secure person than I was when I was 30. Happy Birthday! Enjoy!

  27. Thank you so so much everyone – every comment hear means the world to me.

    And welcome Tonya, so happy to have you here! I'd say let's celebrate the “dawn of middle age” with fewer Julia Roberts movies.

  28. Happy Birthday, Liz! And congrats on returning to work full-time…I'm almost there, doing 4 days a week this year. You have an enviable life for sure as this photo is a testament to. Sending you hugs and birthday wishes, Kami

  29. I'm not at all where I thought I'd be, but it's pretty darn good. I thought I'd be married right now, but better happily single than unhappily married. I'm working my way through life best I can, and it's working for me for now. 🙂

    Happy birthday!

  30. Happy day after your birthday. I hope you had disco ball-worthy fun yesterday.

    I am not at all where I thought I would be, but I like where I am a lot better than the imagined location.

  31. Happy Birthday!

    Not even a little, but I wouldn't change it at all.

    I thought I would be in Brooklyn, being a powerful geek career woman in the big city.

    Instead I am a mom, in Minneapolis, with a back yard, a dog, a husband, who is about too, maybe, perhaps, consider quitting the career thing and being a SAHM. Never ever thought I would be there, but I am sick of day dreaming about it and I'm ready to do it.

  32. I don't think I ever thought this far out. I still feel like I have yet to achieve half the things in life I want to, but once I turned 40, I somehow realized that I have loads of time in front of me. I have created these two amazing little people (and I've also had a fab apartment in NYC like you at the age of 32), had interesting jobs and experiences, done loads of travel. There's time for more.

  33. “I choose to recognize that not achieving all dreams doesn't mean I haven't achieved any dreams. Besides, I've still got some time left.”

    I love this sentence, and yes I ma making the same choice.

    Not at all where I thought I'd be, but have definitely achieved a lot – and still dreaming.

  34. Happy (belated) Birthday.

    I'm not where I thought I would be, but I'm liking where I am and where I'm going! Life takes us on some interesting twists and turns…I just try to enjoy the ride.

  35. No, I'm not. I'm not where I thought I'd be at fifteen when I pictured my life. Or even at nineteen when I got married. Nope. Not a bit.

    Yet, I'd not give up what I have. Not for a second.

    I hope you had a great birthday Liz.

  36. OMG! My friends and I did the year 2000 calculation too. I remember we thought 33 was ANCIENT. If only we knew…

    Happy Birthday! Enjoy!

  37. I never thought this old, so no. But considering my mom was single, and never owned, and we couldn't afford to move out of the crappy ass gang neighborhood I lived in from 6th grade to Sophmore in college, I'm not upset either. Married, not divorced. Own our condo (or at least, mortgaging our condo). One beautiful child (never thought one…always thought two or three or four). Job? I never figured that out, and I guess my career of job hopping reflects that. It's OK. I'm happy.

    You sound really happy, too. I'm glad to know that. 🙂

  38. Happy Birthday! Mine was Monday. I turned 44. It was very low key, mostly because it was Monday, but also… 44?

    I think I have the advantage of not really having any idea of where I would be as an adult. Therefore almost everything I have done since the age of 26ish (the year I got married) has been a bonus.

    Sure there are a few goals I have not yet accomplished, but hopefully, there will be time.

  39. I wonder if ANY of us are where we thought we would be. I tend to think of the stages of my life as incarnations. And because we move around a lot it seems like no one knows me where I live now from my incarnation as a single, NYC-apartment dwelling, ballroom-dancing graphic artist. And those coworkers…would they recognize me as a married sahm/wahm suburban Utah copywriter? I mean, I can hardly recognize myself 🙂

    Happy day, even though I know it's not an easy one.

  40. Ugh, I missed your birthday. Happy birthday, mama.

    I am not where I thought I'd be at all. But I think it's better.

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