I’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?