Today begins the last year I will spend in my thirties. Most people find themselves freaking out, searching for something new, or searching for the thing they believe will fulfill them. Thirty-nine can trigger a sense of panic and anxiety in some people. I remember feeling that way at 29 years old. I was anxious about what was to come and felt burdened by the decade I was leaving behind. I didn’t appreciate the lessons because I was too busy mourning the pitfalls and pauses. I was reeling from the whirlwind upheaval in my life caused mainly by living with a chronic condition and not receiving proper medical treatment and support. I was a mess. There was more fear than anticipation and more life changes than I wanted.
As I knock on 40’s door this time, I am not so anxious. I am ready for the new decade to begin. When you are filming a television show or a movie, the last shot of the night is called, The Martini shot. I never quite got a definitive answer as to why it’s called that, but I assume it’s because of the celebratory moment at the end of a long hard day. My 39th year is my martini shot. It’s the wrapping up an eventful but very long, strenuous decade.
In nine years, I started advocating in the healthcare space seriously and feverishly. I went on a lot of first and second dates. I fell in love and out as quickly as I fell in. I created new friendships, which as an adult, is incredibly difficult, especially for those of us who are comfortable not socializing at any events. I created and maintained a brand. I raised one hell of an amazing human being. I started a non-profit. I returned to school, graduated, and transferred to a four-year university. I’ve developed new conditions. I battled my bones, nerves, digestive system, muscles, and brain. I’ve partnered and invested in women-run businesses and ventures. I’ve gained weight. I lost weight and gained it back again. I have lost some of the most important human beings in my life. I have gained some of the most important relationships I will ever have. I have been sad. I have been extraordinarily, ridiculously exuberant. I have gained nieces and nephews. I lost a brother. I discovered and rediscovered myself several times.
There was a lot of life lived in this decade. Lots of changes. Some great. Some painful. All necessary. I don’t know that I will ever be or feel settled because I will always want more. I will always find a way to better my circumstances. As a person with a chronic condition, I can’t ever be comfortable with being stagnant. My conditions will continue evolving, and I must be ready to grow with them. My child will never be inactive, and I must be prepared to evolve with them.
July 17, 2013, started with fear and uncertainty. I didn’t know what 30 would bring. And I couldn’t imagine how beautiful I would end this decade in my life. I had a plan for my thirties, but life laughed at my plans. I had to humbly sit down, strap in and allow God to take the wheel on this one. I’m relieved where I landed. It feels like I’m where I was supposed to be 20 years ago, but better. This adventure has been everything I didn’t know I needed and never thought I would want.
I always said I would never let my disease dictate how I lived my life. I vocalized its minimal role in my existence. Even in my advocacy, I refuse to allow the negativity of living with a chronic condition to overwhelm my message of normalizing living with a chronic condition. I realize now that where I can control my destiny, I choose myself and my child and not cater to the destruction of disease. Does this mean I don’t get sick? No. Does it mean that I ignore what’s happening with my body? No. It means I do my best to care for and heal myself. It also means I prioritize my dreams and my child’s dreams. And to fulfill those dreams, I need to be healthy. At least 60% healthy. So I shoot for 60%. Some days I land on 40%, some days 80%. Some days are wins. Some days are not so much a win but a damn good try. It isn’t about being brave, having some secret sauce, or even living falsely on social media. It’s about using fear and uncertainty as fuel to try. Try new food and pray it cooperates with the J-Pouch. Try a few classes to see if I can be a good student. Try a new way of parenting to meet my tween halfway. Try a new treatment to help increase my quality of life.
Forty will bring new challenges, lessons, passions, and experiences. These are things to embrace. And as I prepare to step into a new decade next year, I will move forward celebrating the end of this one. It’s time to evolve into the next phase of crazy creole mommyhood. And honey, I am here for it!