Birthday thoughts: Life in 2003, 2008, 2013 and beyond…

photo-99I’m celebrating a semi-milestone birthday later this week: my 35th. Birthdays always make me a bit reflective, and since this is my blog, and I’m no longer keeping a journal, this is where my reflections will go.

In particular, milestone birthdays make me think back to my previous milestone birthdays, and what has changed since then. When I turned 25 in 2003, I was living in a New York City apartment and was very much in love with the boyfriend I’d met about 10 months before. It had been an exciting previous year, with him doing things like taking me to Switzerland for the weekend. I remember he gave me a lovely pair of diamond earrings for my birthday and a friend told me, “yeah, the next ones will be for your finger” and it was true. We got engaged two months later. On the professional front, I had a lunch meeting, on my 25th birthday, with an agent who was encouraging about solo book writing, and an editor at Reader’s Digest. We talked books, and how I’d start writing for Reader’s Digest, which I did wind up doing for several years.

So all seemed good and full of possibility.

By my next milestone birthday — 30 — a few things I could have guessed at my previous milestone birthday had transpired. I’d gotten married. I’d had my first kid, who was 19 months old, though he seemed to celebrate my birthday every year with a wretched bout of norovirus (a tradition that, alas, has continued many years — what is with the early December stomach bug? Here’s hoping we’ve already endured our bout this year, which came in early October).  

But I was feeling more frustrated with other aspects of life. We were hoping to add to our family, but things hadn’t panned out as intended by 6 months into that project. I’d been trying to sell the book that eventually became 168 Hours for more than a year with no luck. This came after the disappointment of Grindhopping (my first solo book) not selling very well. I hadn’t sold a novel I’d written either! I was ghosting books again, an enterprise I hoped to be done with. Meanwhile, of course, the broader world appeared to be falling apart in the fall of 2008. The woes of the financial crisis made a depressing backdrop to all this.  

So that was my last milestone birthday. Fortunately, a few things happened within a few months to set things on a different course for me by this one, my 35th birthday. A little more than a month after my 30th birthday, I learned I was expecting my second son, a little boy who has been an absolute joy. Around the same time, I got a meeting with some folks at Portfolio. They suggested the “168 Hours” angle for my how-we-spend-our-time book proposal, and by February, I had a book contract. I’m now working on my 4th book with Portfolio. I had a bonus 3rd baby in 2011. We moved to Pennsylvania, and while I miss New York, I realize that I kind of like being able to spread out in my lovely house and visit New York by train every week or two.

Looking forward from this milestone, I’m kind of curious what my life will be like in 5 more years, when I celebrate my 40th birthday. My kids will be 11, 9, and 7 then. Ideally, I’ll have written a few more books in both the fiction and non-fiction categories. Hopefully they’ll be books I’m happy with! I assume we’ll still be living where we are, but who knows? In any case, I’m hoping to celebrate the 40th more in the mindset of the 35th and the 25th than the 30th: feeling good about the way things are going, feeling like there’s progress.

How did you celebrate your last milestone birthday?



33 Responses to Birthday thoughts: Life in 2003, 2008, 2013 and beyond…


  1. Rachael says:

    Happy birthday!

    I celebrated a milestone birthday this May. I threw a party for myself and indulged in a chocolate cake from Magnolia Bakery. And then I wrote a business plan — long overdue, since I’ve actually been freelancing for 6+ years.

    • Laura says:

      @Rachael- the chocolate cake sounds lovely! I’m attempting to celebrate with a party but the early December thing is tough… Any blog readers live in the Philly area?

      • Ana says:

        Do you need party venue ideas? Hmmm….I can think on it. Like you mentioned previously, people may or may not be “so busy” because its December. Not everyone has “loads of parties” to go to for the holiday!

  2. I honestly don’t remember. Dh did just finish his birthday present for me from my last birthday. I tend not to heap on fives but on 7s for those milestones anyway. 25 is still young, but 27 is grown up! 35 still youthful…

    In college I got post midterms sick on my birthday a lot. The most memorable birthday was dc1 sticking a pony bead up his nose that night and the resultant emergency room fun. But not a milestone birthday.

  3. Louisa says:

    For my 50th birthday, my husband I took a month and walked the 500-mile Camino de Santiago from the French border to Santiago, Spain. I felt the 50/500 resonance would be an auspicious beginning to my next decade. For my 60th birthday, we walked the 200-mile Coast-to-Coast, a series of linking paths from the Irish Sea to the North Sea– from a village in the Lake District to a village in Yorkshire. Less distance, but much more strenuous. I’ve become a complete fan of long-distance walking!

    • Laura says:

      @Louisa- wow, that sounds incredible. Something I’d love to do for my 50th (and 60th!)

  4. Alison says:

    For my 40th birthday my partner and I went to a luxury spa for the weekend. I was most happy because we had left one son at home, and another was on the way. After years of fertility treatment and 5 rounds of IVF, I knew our family would soon be complete and it was such a relief! I hope to have made full professor by 45, but it will be just fine if I don’t. The real present will be my youngest starting school — primary school-age is my favourite era by far!

    Happy Birthday Laura!

    • Laura says:

      @Alison – thank you! And here’s to making full prof by 45 — and getting the kids off to school!

  5. My last milestone birthday was my 35th and I’d just had twins born 8 weeks early a month prior. It was actually my worst birthday ever if you don’t count this year which was also quite terrible. But that year, I was knee-deep in two babies who were crying all the time and when the paed asked jokingly, “are you ready to give them back yet?” I said “YES!” and then my hubby and I had a fight on the way home too :)

    • Laura says:

      @Marcia – oh dear! Sorry to hear this year was bad too. Here’s hoping your next birthday will be much better.

  6. We are almost the same age, then! I turned 35 this past spring.

    Most of my life-changing family things happened before I turned 30, as I had Zoe when I was almost 28.

    So, I guess the biggest thing that’s happened to me between 30 and 35 is my blog’s growth. I started it when I was 30 and had no idea it would turn into what it has after five years.

    • Laura says:

      @The Frugal Girl – it’s really cool to see a project like that take off. Who knows what it will look like in 2018? Or maybe no one will be blogging then!

      • I always wonder that too…I suppose blogs will die at some point, and I wonder what will replace them!

  7. Ana says:

    My 30th I remember quite clearly. It was my last overnight call of residency. My med students and interns bought me a cake and we had burritos for dinner. It was a fairly quiet night. The next morning my husband took me to brunch and that night we had a huge leaving party in our condo (right before we started packing for our move) that was also a surprise-birthday celebration.
    I had to really think to remember my 35th. I was pregnant with my now 2 year old. I went to work and then the three of us (me, husband, and 1.5 year old son) went to a nice restaurant with outdoor seating for an early dinner.
    I’m hoping to really splash out for my 40th (in 2.5 years!)

    • Laura says:

      @Ana – maybe I should start planning the 40th now!

  8. Ana says:

    Oh, and Happy Birthday!!!

  9. oldmdgirl says:

    I wish I could link the blog post I wrote on the day I turned 35. Wow. I really hated my husband then. My baby was 3 months old, and my life SUUUUUUUCKED.

    Thank you for posting this, because otherwise I wouldn’t have gone back to read those posts. I think I’m going to go get an IUD now.

    • Laura says:

      @oldmdgirl – 3 months is hard. The adrenaline is gone and you’re just tired of waking up too much…

      • oldmdgirl says:

        Amen to that!

  10. Leanne says:

    Happy birthday, Laura! My last milestone was 30 (I’m 32 now). My husband and I both turned 30 in July that year, and as we were still childless then (I got pregnant 5 months later) we took a big trip- Seattle, Anchorage, and then a glacier cruise. It was fantastic- wonderful memories to keep us connected throughout the beginnings of parenthood!

    • Laura says:

      @Leanne- that sounds like a great trip! And yes, good to get it in pre-parenthood. You can travel after kids, it’s just harder.

  11. sarah (SHU) says:

    happy birthday!!

    my 30th — my last “milestone — was a mixed picture – i was starting to get really frustrated fertility issues, but was also at a really great time professionally (finally finishing residency to start fellowship, which i was much more excited about!). 35 will be coming up in 1.5 years and i can only dream about what is to come. i look forward to ‘growing up’ as a family, mother, and professionally. and doing more of what I want (and not worrying what others think!). so far the 30s have been my favorite decade (although 20s were good too :) ).

    • Laura says:

      @sarah – my 30s have been good so far. Partly it’s that the last years of the 20s weren’t so hot. But maybe that’s true for lots of people…

  12. lakshmi says:

    I had a big milestone birthday this august- The big 50! I went to Europe with my family and on my birthday we were in Paris .Sightseeing in Paris made me forget that I was 50. I feel like I am at a great point in my life with a good career, 3 sons who are busy with school and university and a wonderful husband. I did not feel this way at 35 when my husband and I were just crazy busy with our careers and kids. It’s nice to be a bit relaxed now and spend time on what we like. Have a wonderful 35th birthday. I enjoy reading your books and blog.

    • Laura says:

      @lakshmi- thanks so much! 50 sounds wonderful when you put it like that!

  13. Jenn says:

    Happy Birthday! (and congratulations on all of your accomplishments to date!)

    My last milestone birthday was 3 years ago, I turned 45. To celebrate, I finally got a tattoo, which I had wanted for years.

    It’s my design: a triquetra with my 3 sons initials in each section and a vine growing through the middle to represent unity and our connection.

    It may seem strange to some, many people don’t like tattoos. But it means a lot to me. and I’m proud of it.

    • Laura says:

      @Jenn- thanks so much! And if the tattoo works for you, that’s the only person it needs to work for :)

  14. Linda M says:

    30th I was pregnant with number 2 and feeling a little frumpy. 40th I was living abroad with my family on my husbands work assignment and having the time of my life. 50th I was enjoying life as an empty nester with husband, enjoying my resurrected career, feeling and looking 10 years younger than my age. That was a few years ago. Every decade seems more fun than the last. Happy Birthday!

    • Laura says:

      @Linda- thanks! Perhaps 30 is a common low point… I would definitely like to do some relaxed travel later on.

  15. Ravi Sinha says:

    30th earlier this year in June! My parents were visiting me from overseas (right around my doctoral commencement). First year as a full time professional. Happy early birthday :)

  16. Cloud says:

    My last milestone was 40, last year. My parents came and watched the kids and we spent a couple of nights in Newport Beach. We kayaked the back bay and strolled around Balboa Island and had a generally great time. I think I tend to get more reflective on the birthdays one year before the big milestones. Maybe they make me reflect on the epoch that is ending? I don’t know. I need to get moving on some things if I want my reflections at 44 to make me happy!

  17. Jenni Levy says:

    My last milestone birthday was 50. David and I are precisely a month apart, and we’d celebrated our 25th anniversary six months earlier, so we threw ourselves a HUGE party. It was wonderful. We wanted to have as much fun as we had on our wedding weekend and we did – live band, lots of the people we love, good food. It was AMAZING and I heartily recommend it.

    My worst birthday was my 42nd, because that was the day we found out that the second adoption wasn’t going through as planned. I remember holding the baby and sobbing for most of the day. For years after that my birthday was not a good day. I was happy to reclaim it at 50. For 55 I want a weekend away with some of my nearest and dearest women friends…hmm. Should start planning that now :)

    • Laura says:

      @Jenni – how awful to have that happen — on any day, really, but particularly on your birthday. Good for you for being able to eventually reclaim it. My father-in-law passed away on my birthday a few years ago so it is a mixed date in our family as well. But my husband isn’t particularly sentimental about dates themselves, and we often celebrate the birthday on a different day (e.g. waiting for a weekend).