“God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.”
Today, August 1, 2013, is the last day that I will ever be 34 years old.
As you get older, birthdays don’t seem to hold the same significance that they did when you were younger. Have you noticed that? You don’t really “look forward” to them anymore. In fact, at some point, they become something that you even somewhat dread. (Another year older!? Really??) But I have decided that, starting this year, I’m going to put a stop to that nonsense.
As I prepare to turn the page to 35, I’m going to take a moment to look back over the year I was 34. The good, the bad – everything notable that took place during my time on this earth as a 34-year-old. Each year holds special moments that are gone in the blink of an eye – moments that we will never get back and can only be relived through memories. They should be cherished and appreciated and yes, even celebrated – the bad, along with the good. But most important of all, they should be noticed. For these are the moments that make us who we are – the moments that shape and mold us into the awesome, unique individuals that comprise humanity, and that give each of us our own story to tell.
So, here’s mine.
Please join me as I look back over the 34 most notable events of my 34th year (in no particular order):
1. I started a blog. I had toyed with the idea for years, but I finally got up the courage to do it this year. And it has been AMAZING! If you’re reading this, you’re one of the reasons why. I’m blown away by how many people read this thing and by all the responses I have gotten from it. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.
2. I got my first writing award (and check!). I got up the nerve to enter a local writing contest and was shocked to get a letter in the mail saying that I had won first place in the essay category. Woohoo!
3. I got my first rejection letter. Yep. A real-life “your stuff isn’t what we’re looking for” letter. And you know what? I actually thought it was kind of cool. Really. You’re not a real writer until you get a rejection. Initiation complete.
4. I saw Niagara Falls. And it was AWESOME!
5. I saw my first marathon. A group of us traveled to New York for the Wineglass Marathon. Many in the group were running the marathon, some running the half marathon, and some, like myself, were just there to watch. There was NOTHING like it. One of my favorite running-related quotes of all time: “If you lose faith in humanity, go watch a marathon.” – Kathrine Switzer. There is so much truth to that. The feeling of camaraderie and “oneness” between the runners and spectators alike was something that I don’t even know how to put into words. This was definitely one of the highlights of my 34th year, hands down.
6. I ran a 5K in New York, and got my personal best time of 30:55. The day before the marathon, there was a 5k as part of the festivities surrounding the event. I decided to run it in, and ended up getting my best personal 5K time. My boyfriend captured this picture at the very moment that I looked up and saw the time clock at the finish line. I just love it. The picture says it all. It was nice to feel so proud of myself.
7. My son joined the cross country team at school. This was such great news to me. I was so proud of him, and felt like my running had made an influence on that decision. Since joining the team, he has gone on to race in a few races with me, and place in many of them (including a 3rd place overall finish for one of them!). I’m such a proud mom.
8. I ran my first 10k. Shortly after returning from the New York trip, I knew that I couldn’t stop at 5Ks. It was time to start training for longer distances. My first 10K was a trail run, and I ran it with my son. I wasn’t fast, but I was very proud. And it was the first time that the thought entered my mind that I might even be able to go further than that. Which brings me to #9..
9. I ran my first half-marathon. Wow. All of my hard work paid off and I crossed that finish line with possibly more pride in myself than I had ever felt before. Not too shabby for a 34-year-old, if I don’t say so myself.
(Here’s the blog entry about the half marathon if you’d like to read more: https://missyspublicjunk.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/i-did-it/)
10. I watched my boyfriend Richard be inducted as the Master of the Ashe Masonic Lodge #594. This was actually very, very cool. I had never seen anything like this ceremony (I’m a chick – we’re not allowed, ya know), and I admit that I went into it thinking that the rituals and secrecy were somewhat silly. But I came away with a deeper understanding of how much this fellowship means to those men, and what good, kind, noble men each and every one of them are. I was so incredibly proud to be Richard’s girlfriend that day. I won’t forget it anytime soon.
11. I started attending a new church. My boyfriend and I, along with our kids, have started attending Bethany United Methodist Church. It has been nice to feel like a part of a church family again. I needed that.
12. I moved. I finally took the plunge and moved out of a place that I was unhappy at. It has made all the difference in the world. It’s such a great feeling to actually look forward to going home for a change. Definitely a noteworthy event from my 34th year.
13. We lost our pet, Chicago. Little Chicago was something else. While just a kitten, my daughter found him in an old trash can outside our home. He had been hurt badly (we still don’t know by what – or whom), and could not move his hind legs. Kelly carried him around like a baby for weeks, feeding him milk from a tiny measuring spoon and giving him little kitty pain pills that an animal-loving friend of ours had provided. I just knew the little guy wasn’t going to make it, but alas – he surprised us all. He was with us for four years. I pretended like I didn’t like the little guy (he had THE MOST annoying meow in the world), but I feel his loss more than I ever thought I would have. We miss you, annoying little Chicago. You were loved.
14. I saw my grandma turn 83. Such a spry, spunky little Grandma she is too.
15. I lost another grandparent. My grandpa, Paul Pridemore (who we all referred to as “Mr. P.”) passed away during my 34th year. Mr. P. lived a long, happy, healthy 96 years on this earth and will be missed by everyone who knew him. I’ll bet he wasn’t the type to dread another birthday. He served as a good example to live life to the fullest while we’re here. I hope I’ll live to make him proud.
16. I ran the path that my other grandpa, Greene Halsey, had walked to school. This is something that I had wanted to do for a long time, and finally did it during my 34th year. I’ll post the link to the blog if you’d like to read more about it. I was very proud to have finally done this. https://missyspublicjunk.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/uphill-both-ways/
17. I sang in public for the first time (sort of). Ok, so technically, I had done this before in musicals. And at karaoke. But getting up and singing with my boyfriend at one of his gigs was SO nerve-wracking. I couldn’t believe I had the courage to get up there. It was hard – and I was shaking like a leaf – but I did it. And have done it a few more times since. Definitely a noteworthy moment from age 34.
18. I lost Richard. Definitely not one of the happiest moments of age 34, but noteworthy nonetheless. Richard and I split up for 2 months. We both tried to move on, but we found our way back (thank God). I think we both grew up more during those 2 months than we had in a long time. Sometimes you just have to travel alone for a while (whether you want to or not) to find out what’s really important. And I definitely found out what was important. Him. I’m so glad he’s back.
19. I witnessed two little miracles. I saw the tiniest babies I had ever seen in my life – and they belonged to my sister. Her twins were born 10 weeks too early. Not many things have affected my life like seeing those tiny little healthy human beings. I’m so amazed at the technology that we have now that allowed for these two to survive.
Here they were then:
And here they are now:
(Again, if you’d like to check out the blog post about these little angels, here’s the link: https://missyspublicjunk.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/week-old-miracles/)
If the 33-year-old Melissa didn’t believe in miracles, this 34-year-old Melissa sure as heck does.
20. I was the subject of a blog. My boyfriend and I were interviewed for a very public blog that was read by tons of people. How cool is that?! Definitely the first time that has ever happened. I was famous for a day!
Links: (Here’s the link to the actual blog: http://www.8womendream.com/55851/improve-womens-self-esteem / And here’s the link to my own blog post about the blog: https://missyspublicjunk.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/self-image-part-2/)
21. I was on TV. Yep. My first TV appearance. I was interviewed for an art segment of a local channel regarding the role I was playing in an upcoming production. Awesomeness. Another first occurring in year 34. (blog link: https://missyspublicjunk.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/fear/)
22. I starred in my first lead female role with Ashe County Little Theatre. I was so proud to have been cast as Mother in the show Life With Father. It took me a long time to become a part of this theatre, and this was such a monumental moment for me. I will remember it always. (Plus, my boyfriend’s son Riley got to play as one of my sons. Added bonus.)
23. My daughter starred in her first lead role ever. I have been involved in theatre for pretty much my whole life, but I never knew the meaning of “nervous” until I felt what I felt just before the curtain rose on opening night of Annie. Watching my baby girl stepping on to the stage in the title role was beyond anything I’ve ever felt before. I was so incredibly proud of her. Not only for her ability, but for her poise and humility throughout the production. This kid is going to go places. Mark my word.
(Related blog post: https://missyspublicjunk.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/tomorrow/)
24. Lost a friend. Although I don’t count this as one of the highlights of my 34th year, I had a falling out with a very close friend. Looking back, I’m not so sure the problem was worth ending a friendship over (is it ever?), but it happened nonetheless. And it should be noted in this list. Perhaps I can come back with an update in year 35 that this has been mended? Perhaps. Either way. Friendship lost – duly noted on the list – moving along…
25. Mended a friendship. While we’re on the topic, I might as well mention that I regained a friend in my 34th year. This is a story that I hope to tell in a future blog, but for now, I’ll just say that it’s nice to have found my old friend again. And to know all is well. Everything always works out ok in the end, right? Chris, I’m glad you’re back.
26. Ran my first obstacle race. The Warrior Dash. *sigh* I don’t even have the energy to talk about this one anymore. If you want to read about it, I’ll post the link. You probably don’t though. It was NOT the best experience. But good or bad, it made the “34” list, so I guess it was notable.
(Blog link: https://missyspublicjunk.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/warrior-dash-or-as-i-like-to-call-it-hell/)
27. Richard and I introduced each other to the fam. That’s a big deal. We were each thrown into the big, loud, happy mix at each other’s family get-togethers over the holidays, and then in a few events (some sad, some happy) since then. Nothing makes you feel like a “real” couple more than getting included in the family (dis)functions. 😉
28. We took our first ‘family’ trip to the beach. Richard’s family has this super cool tradition that spans the years (starting even before he was born) of all getting together to go to Myrtle Beach once a year. It’s a glorified family reunion, if you will. And this year, my kids and I were included. And that’s awesome. It meant so much to me to be included in something so special, and is definitely noteworthy in my 34 list.
29. Made it through a cancer scare. I was a basket case during the fall of my 34th year. We found a lump on my son’s neck that wouldn’t go away. 17 years ago, the same thing had happened to me when I was just a few years older than he was. And I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After excruciating weeks of waiting and worrying, a surgery was finally scheduled to remove the lump from his neck and have it tested. And – thank God – it was benign. There is no worry like that of a mother for her child. I gained a new appreciation and understanding for my own mother through this ordeal, and I hope to never have to go through anything like it again.
30. Got a standing ovation – mid-show. Now, THAT was cool. Of course, I was playing Elvis (sort of). And I sang Heartbreak Hotel. And I looked like this:
But still. Standing ovations mid-show just don’t happen. That was definitely one for the 34 list. Hands down.
31. Went to an AWESOME wedding. Now, you know if a wedding made the list, it must have kicked butt. Well…it did. That was the most fun I have had in a while. It was theatre-themed and full of people I love – how could you go wrong? I even blogged about it. (https://missyspublicjunk.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/completion/)
Thanks Jim & Rebecca for giving us these memories to cherish.
32. Visited the house Richard lived in when he was born. We took a little detour on the way back while we were in New York for the marathon, and swung by to take a look at the house that Richard lived in for the first six months of his life. It was the first time he had seen it since. That was a pretty cool moment. Very sentimental. I was proud to be able to tag along for that moment. That was a good “age 34” memory.
33. 4-mile Abingdon race with my son. Now, why did this make my list? Sure, I’ve run plenty of races by now – and quite a few of them with my son. But there was just something about this one. Most notably, when my son finished the race (well ahead of me, of course), he turned around and came back on the track to find me, and finished with me. It would be pretty difficult to leave that moment off of the top 34 list. Have I mentioned that I’m a proud momma?? (Blog post: https://missyspublicjunk.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/favorite-race-so-far/)
And finally. We’ve reached #34. I saved what I felt was the most notable event for last. (And incidentally, if you’ve made it this far – I’m impressed.)
34. I was in a car accident. In April of my 34th year, I was in a pretty bad car accident. I totaled my car but, miraculously, walked away with only a few scratches. You don’t come away from something like that without some sort of “indention” on your life. It leaves a mark. The only thing that remained intact from my accident, besides myself, was my drivers side mirror. I found the mirror at the accident site days later, and took it home as a reminder. True to my word (as I mentioned in a blog post shortly after – https://missyspublicjunk.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/reflection/), I keep this mirror beside my bed on my nightstand. I feel like it serves a reminder that I’m still here. I’m still here. Life didn’t stop at 34. And there’s probably a reason for that.
And I fully intend to spend the rest of my time here on earth figuring out exactly what that is.
So, thank you. Thank you, reader, for taking this trip down memory lane with me. You know – you would think that it would be hard to come up with 34 things over a year that were notable, wouldn’t you? But I actually found myself having to weed some out. Isn’t that crazy? It’s amazing how much you realize actually happens in your world when you sit down and take the time to pull each event out and shine a light of remembrance on it. We should do this more often, shouldn’t we?
Goodbye, 34. You were awesome.
Hello, 35. You ready? We’ve got a lot of work to do. Let’s get started.
“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”
– Oprah Winfrey