Last week I went to a concert at a beautiful park in the middle of the city. The weather was perfect. Cool with just enough humidity that you couldn’t forget that it was June in Virginia. It also just happened to be my 39th birthday.
As I sat in my fold-up camping chair, eating a bowl full of quinoa/arugula/avocado and sipping my beer– I took in the crowd around me. Standing just behind the sound board in a more open space were two women with long wavy hair and pretty sundresses. They laughed and talked to some other people near them. They huddled close together over secrets and inside jokes. Later they took their shoes off and danced. They knew all the words.
As I watched them, I got this very clear image of myself in my early twenties: not long out of college, armed with wide expanses of free time. Spending my days at a career I stumbled into, more than chose. I was taking drawing classes, not realizing I was meant to make my art from words. I wove my toes through cool evening grass at rock shows and woke up hoarse the next morning from singing at the top of my lungs. There was a careless and restless contentment to those years.
I look at that picture above, taken during those years, and I hardly recognize myself. Not just because my hair is a totally different color (though there is that). It’s just that my thirties have been a decade of big steps: very intentional career changes that involved graduate degrees. The finding of novels full of words. About learning and growing and pushing forward and falling backward and getting up and moving ahead again. Discontent– in all the best ways, for all the right reasons.
And yet sitting there that night staring past the stage lights igniting the trees in shades of pink, at the night sky– I found myself wondering where I might find the balance between those two versions of myself and if perhaps it might be at 39.