Heidi Isern

writer. thinker. whiskey drinker.

F*** the Birthday Pressure, I’m Taking My Time

On August 8, 2011 the stock market sunk another 6%, making people’s 401K plans scream. Riots in London erupted, depleting stores of PDAs.  Also disastrous, I turned another year older.

As I said the digits aloud, San Francisco’s ‘summer’ felt especially grey. Frowning at the fog, I worried that I had not accomplished near enough for this age, was too far from the perfect balance I craved, and would suffocate under pressures that society puts on early 30something women.

The phone calls and emails that trickled in with “What are we doing for your birthday?” only continued to add stress to the day. I was on celebration strike, not feeling that I had any cause for bubbles. I spent my birthday week hibernating until my sister in law gave me a reprimand. “Why are you so focused on what you haven’t done? Why don’t you instead focus on all the things you have achieved? Why don’t you think about how you can use this to move forward?” She also hinted that I could focus on the people I had in my life, like, oh, my family.

Sigh. I really wanted to stay grouchy but as I started to list down things and people in my life, a hesitant smile started. As quick as the fog turns to sun, my glass went from near empty to overflowing.

I didn’t think about my unfinished book, but rather the work I’ve done on it. I decided to view my career ‘sidesteps’ as a dance with fantastic opportunities, not as job schizophrenia with ever changing business cards. I forgot about the list of things I ‘must accomplish’ and instead remembered the mountains I’ve (literally) already climbed. Ahhh dear Kilimanjaro…

In addition, I realized that it’s worthless to worry that I’m not married, and far better to celebrate that fact that I’ve been in love. A few times. Of course, not all of these love experiences were healthy…but they make good writing material for that unfinished book of mine.

By focusing on what I had, and not what I didn’t have, my life became brighter. Perhaps my crazy chest of experiences wasn’t too shabby for a young 30something. Perhaps it was the perfect foundation for my next leap forward. Perhaps I just am taking my time……

But rather than gag on my own autobiography or bore my readers with my next master plan, I thought I would list a few historical woman that didn’t make their major mark on society until their after 30th birthday. The thread that ties them together is simple: Keep trying, do what you believe in, and the best is after 30!

Try the daunting

Sally Ride was the first woman in space at age 32. She joined NASA by applying to a newspaper advertisement that sought candidates for the space program. She was selected out of 8,000 applicants. Sally Ride choose science and space not only because it intrigued her, but also because it afforded her a better career than tennis (she was a champion at that as well). Plus, the best things in life are often combustible. She once said,

“When you’re getting ready to launch into space, you’re sitting on a big explosion waiting to happen.”

Keep at what you love

Amelia Earhart became a nurses aid for the Red Cross after seeing wounded patients during World War I. After visiting airfields she fell in love with the art of flying. She worked a series of odd jobs to pay for flying school and then later worked as a teacher and social worker to support her airplane hobby, an odd one for a woman. She finally was chosen to make a transatlantic flight with a team of pilots at age 30. She was 34 when she made her solo transatlantic flight that made her a legend. On becoming one, she said,

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure , the process is its own reward.”

Stand up (or sit down) for what you believe in

Rosa Parks, known for propelling the Civil Rights movement, was the ripe old age of 42 when she refused to give up her seat on the bus and was arrested. Her jobs had varied from housekeeper, seamstress, and hospital aid but she was very active in the NAACP, confident that another way was possible. Of her experience she said,

“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

Write what you live

Simone de Beauvoir, the famed French author didn’t start her writing career until she was 35. It was by living out of convention that propelled her to document another way of living, including her long term polyamorous relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre once asked her to marry him, but she declined and set up a joint household….with numerous guests.  The ultra feminist once said,

“On the day when it will be possible for woman to love not in her weakness but in strength, not to escape herself but to find herself, not to abase herself but to assert herself — on that day love will become for her, as for man, a source of life . . .”

Perhaps loving oneself is also loving the path we are on, not comparing ourselves to the roads others take. And if we truly embrace the journey, we’ll likely arrive at a far better destination.  Plus as Pablo Picasso said, “It takes a long time to grow young.”

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