Bring On the Candles

I'm writing this post on the eve of my 34th birthday. The weather in Charleston is showing the first hints of fall; the air feels crisp, the breeze is just right, and the sun illuminates with a brightness that is still warm enough for cold-natured girls like me. Each year, when October rolls around, it's as if the birthday gods say, "Cue nostalgia," and off I go, into a dream world of thinking and reminiscing. Just before I turned ten, I recall bidding farewell to the ripe old age of nine, feeling a little sad that my age would never again be a single digit. You get the idea. This is what I do. I look back. I look forward. I take stock of my life and attempt to glean a little insight and draw meaning from my experiences.

34 is an interesting time in my life. I have noticed over the past few years, I'm more willing to welcome the age I'm becoming, instead of mourning the age I'll no longer be. I began to see I'm not losing anything; I bring all my wisdom and experiences to each new day. Blowing out another candle is a sign that we are adding to the fullness and richness of our lives.

I recall in my early 20's, fresh out of college and just beginning my trek up the ladder of success, I thought if I worked hard enough and didn't mess anything up, I would continue to advance to a new rung, year after year. I thought by the time I was 30, I would have it all figured out. I would have achieved professional and personal success and then-- only then-- could I begin to live happily ever after.

I never expected to do anything other than what I set out to do. I never imagined, then, I would eventually grow and change and would want something more meaningful and fulfilling for my life. Rapidly approaching my "success deadline" I found myself at a crossroads:

Option one: suck it up and stay the course. (After all, I had already put so much time and energy into this... certainly I could figure out a way to make it work, right?)

Or option two: allow myself to imagine a new path. A path where I was happy and fulfilled. A path that fully expressed my passions and gave me the space to continue to explore and honor the real me.

I chose option two.

Back then, I thought success was a destination—a magical place only few would find. Upon my arrival, I told myself, I would finally be happy. As I desperately clung to each rung of the ladder, I began to realize that what I was striving for would always be just beyond my grasp.

That's when I opened my eyes to what I believe are universal truths: I am not stuck; I always have choices. I am called to discover my purpose. I can do that by recognizing when I feel the most alive (like right now, writing this blog post) and opening myself up to new opportunities that reveal themselves to me each day. And most importantly, true happiness is found in the present moment. In striving for some magic "it"… I was truly missing it. I was missing this moment. I was missing my life.

As I blow out my candles tomorrow, I will acknowledge that I never imagined that I would be in this place, at this time in my life. And I never imagined I would feel so blessed. I write this to encourage you, not to do it my way. To do it your way.

Write your own story. Define your own success.