Yesterday was my 45th birthday. The number “45” does not cause alarm until I think about the 5 short years until I turn 50. And…THAT number seems ridiculous. 🙂
Like most people, I assume, the arrival of my yearly birthday prompts a slurry of reflective thoughts and winding questions of direction–Where have I been and where do I want to go?
Looking back, my previous life events took some very interesting turns (to say the least), which I honestly–always and continuously–view as gifts and opportunities to evolve. Like the vinyl stickers on one of the walls in our classroom states, “If it does not challenge you, it does not change you.”
So, for the past few days, I found myself thinking a lot about my unusual path and the significant events I used to form myself into the woman I am today at age 45.
I was raised in a patriarchal dominated home, where individuality, progressive thoughts, and conflicting opinions were not tolerated, often resulted in severe punishment, and significantly stifled free-thinking, creativity and uniqueness–a pit of suffocating quicksand that I would spend 25+ years clawing my way out of to find, uncover and explore my original identity on unbiased solid ground.
A surprise pregnancy at the age of 19 started the growth and evolution.
The life-altering minute I became responsible for another human being created the defining moment I chose to forge my own, unique path.
As a single mom, I completed college with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Studio Art and added an all-level, K-12 teaching certificate. Studying and learning did not come naturally. My son, on the other hand, taught himself to read at age 3 and understood simple algebra by age 5.
I raised my son alone, except for three, not-so-awesome years when I accidentally married a drug addict. I wish I could write a paragraph to explain those years…oh the enormous mountain of red flags and stupidity I ignored! It is utterly embarrassing and I am literally shaking my head as I type these words. Excuse the acronym, but seriously, WTF?
Honestly, I *think* I married him because he formed such a strong bond with my son, who desperately desired a male role model in the absence of his father (whose visits were sporadic and yearly, at best) I also divorced him because of my son– I REFUSED to subject him to an unstable and unhealthy environment.
The wedding was March 11, 2000. By August, I learned about a hidden addiction and immediately went into action, contacting family members, staging an intervention, begging, pleading, blah, blah, blah… I filed for divorce on October 17, 2002, which was ultimately finalized on April 1, 2003. Good times, ladies and gentlemen…good times…
During those explosive days, I became the Secondary Teacher of the Year for the entire school district–a title never before awarded to a fine arts teacher. One guarantee in my public school classroom–individuality was encouraged and celebrated, as was free-thinking and original thought, interpretation and expression.
And that was that. Bam. I was a single mom again. Artist. Teacher of the year.
Eventually, I plan to write an entire post all about my epic love story, but for today, a quick summary will have to pacify you. 🙂
I met my amazing (and current, LOL) husband in 2nd grade. We were seven years old. We rode the same school bus and we enjoyed the same awesome teacher that year, 1980. (She had a carpeted bathtub in her classroom for a reading nook! Seriously, how cool is that?!?)
We were interested in each other from the very beginning and all through elementary school, but his family moved away at the end of 8th grade.
Our paths crossed uncountable times over the next 16+ years, which resulted in several missed opportunities, a cherished photograph of him holding my 6 week old son and ironically, an encounter with my drug-addicted-then-fiance.
Life is funny sometimes.
Long story short, we finally married on August 29, 2003. Reminder: Divorce freed me from a life of heartache and addiction-induced instability on April 1, 2003. Yes, I am aware that is an alarmingly short amount of time between the end of one marriage and the beginning of a new marriage, but honestly I should have married this man 25 years ago. I never questioned the time line.
I will share this fun, little tidbit that will certainly be mentioned in my longer love story post: Ironically, our first daughter was born on April 1, 2004–exactly 1 year after my divorce was finalized. Internally and quietly, I celebrate that day each year as another significant, life evolving-freedom-granting event–AND I usually get to eat cake and ice cream! HELLO! Who gets to celebrate an escape from a suffocating marriage like that every year!?! ME! Pretty awesome, right? 🙂
If you are familiar with my blog, you know all about my extraordinary family. But, for the new comers, I will share a few details and will attach some links at the bottom of this rambling if you find yourself interested with nothing else to do today. LOL
My children are profoundly gifted–All three of them, though my son was never professionally tested. He began college level classes at the age of 15 through the public school, dual-credit system and he is a mathematical genius and forward-thinker. My daughters began taking college classes at the local community college at age 10 and 12.
One daughter is fluent in French, is a 2nd degree black belt and runs her own charity. Her passions include human rights and marine biology. Our other daughter is fluent in American Sign Language and has completed 25 college hours. (She is 12.) She plans to become an OB/GYN for Deaf and hearing women.
We started a homeschooling journey almost 7 years ago to accommodate the need for our daughters’ extreme academic accelerations. My son was already in college by the time our family initiated this evolution.
Sometimes people ask me about the origin of all of this intelligence. The short answer is I have no idea. The funny answer is that it skipped a generation, mainly me. LOL. My husband likes to take all of the credit, but I like to remind him that does not explain my son. 🙂
So…the truth–if I am 100% honest–obviously the mega-brain power originated with some deeply buried DNA trait, which resides dormant inside of MY genetic make up.
And here is where my 45th birthday becomes a swirling, inner reflection, self-evaluating event.
I am surrounded by brilliant people.
My dad was a very successful attorney. My niece is about to earn her master’s degree and she is married to an attorney. My son’s girlfriend is an attorney. (There seems to be a trend here.) My sister has a master’s degree in special education and my husband will graduate in June with his graduate degree–having earned his undergrad from West Point. My brother-in-law is an orthopaedic surgeon. My daughters are geniuses and my intelligent, mature son was progressive in his bravity to walk away from a suffocating corprotate job to seek happiness over wealth.
That’s a tough crowd to compare yourself to.
I can’t help but wonder, at the ripe age of 45, if I somehow missed the academic boat–am I just some sort of super under-achiever?
My thoughts keep going back and forth, an internal conversation I regularly have with myself, but my annual birthday tends to highlight the significance.
Could I be more? Should I be more? What really is “more”?
I don’t have regrets. I really don’t. Even the botched marriage taught me life lessons that allow me to be a better wife to my wonderful husband. Do I wish I could have learned those lessons a different way? Sure. Do I wish I was raised in a different kind of household? Yes. If my surprise pregnancy never happened, would my life have taken a different path? Maybe. Probably. I don’t know.
It really doesn’t matter. I would not change it.
All of these significant events created the Jen I present to the world each and every day. I am the glue that holds my family together when my military husband deploys and the fierce momma-bear that fights an age discriminating college system for my girls.
When my adult son needs something, I am his person. When my husband’s work pulls him away, he never, EVER wonders or worries about how I will handle things. My daughters both know that I will do whatever it takes to help them succeed–THEIR definition of success, not my own.
I constantly seek a better way. A better path. A better understanding. A better acceptance.
An evolution into better.
I **think** that is what 45 looks like for me.
Want to read some more random writings about my unique family?