Two days ago I celebrated my 40th birthday. Holy. Crap. I'm just kidding... although it doesn't feel real sometimes. I
don't feel 40, and I don't think I look 40 (as was confirmed by the fact that no one believed me when I said it was my 40th birthday) ;) Honestly, it felt like any other day. I went to work, and then came home and put on my mom hat. My daughter and I didn't really celebrate in any extraordinary way... it was just another Friday, but it was a good day nonetheless. Although the actual day didn't feel signficant, the weeks leading up to it kinda did. Facing a milestone of entering a new decade did make me reflect on my life a bit. What is it about cetain markers in time that cause us to look a little bit deeper at ourselves? Birthdays, New Years, anniversaries, etc. Or am I the only one who does this? Anyways, looking back over my life it feels as though I've lived about 5 different lifetimes... from my earliest childhood memories, to going out on my own into this world at a pretty young age. My career in EMS, and my new life as an entrepreneuer. Fun times with my girlfriends in my 20s, to my 30s that were a complete blur... marriage, divorce, kid, moving, boyfriends, single life, and everything in between. In each of these times there has been a different version of me.... it's all been me, but the person I've become at 40 is a direct result of the experiences of my past, no doubt.
I grew up in chaos and dysfunction. My dad is an alcoholic, and although he didn't drink for most of the 18 years I lived at home, it didn't mean he was sober. There are certain traits and characteristics that alcholics/addicts tend to have even if they are not actively drinking, unless they do the work to truly get sober... without that work they tend to be abusive, controlling, have unreal expectations of others, blame others for their own mistakes or inadequacies, etc. Growing up I sustained a lot of verbal, mental, and emotional abuse, and some physical abuse as well. Living at home was like walking through a landmine... you never knew what would set things off. The habits I learned to survive were to keep quiet and hide, to strive for perfection, to take the blame when others mistreated me, to never speak what was on my mind... these behaviors stayed with me most of my life. Despite trying not to rock the boat, for some reason I was inherently strongwilled at times, and I would occasionally stand up for myself, my mom, my brother, and sister who were also a victims of his abuse... which pissed my dad off. lol... and made for a childhood where I was counting down the days to my escape into a life outside of that house. I used to pray that my parents would get a divorce, so I could have peace.
When my mom finally decided that she had enough... 23 years into the marriage... she filed for divorce. On Halloween the year I graduated high school I moved out of my parents' house... I remember it was Halloween because the plan was my mom would take my little sister trick-or-treating while my father was served with divorce papers and a restraining order by the Sheriff. I moved all of my belongings out while he was at work that day, so he had no idea where I went, and it would give my mom a safe place to stay while it all went down. My mom and my little sister came to my apartment after trick-or-treating and basically hid out for the weekend, until it was safe for them to return to the house without my dad there. My brother stayed with friends.
I think most kids move out of their parents house with dreams of their future... college, travel, etc. But, living that life kept me from ever really dreaming of what my future would actually look like. My instinct was just to survive. I never thought about what I would become, or what talents I had that I could use... I never realized I could actually have a purpose in this world.
A few years later I ended up in EMS. I never had aspirations of being an EMT. I had gotten a receptionist job in the Emergency Room, and I freaking hated it. I hated filing paperwork, answering phones, working on computers, being indoors all the time... everything that comes with a clerical job. However, I liked the people I worked with. One of the secretaries told me she was going to EMT school, and she suggested I should too... so, I registered for the next semester. I had no idea what an EMT did. Literally. lol... I would see the EMS crews come in. They would joke around for a few minutes after dropping off their patients, and then head back outside to the world.... seemed like a pretty good gig to me. As soon as I got my license I got a job on the ambulance, and the rest is history... that's where I would stay for the next 16 years of my life. EMS suited me... it felt familiar... I think because the trauma made me feel at home. I was good at my job, and it did finally make me feel like I was somewhat important... but, it wasn't fulfilling... at least after the new had worn off. After a while it began to feel like I was trapped... EMS is kinda like an abusive relationship, if I'm being completely honest. You see and experience terrible things, and you feel like you need to fix it all... so you can't leave. You start placing your worth in this identity of a uniform instead of who you are as a person. I don't know if it's this way in every service, but in mine we were made to feel very insignificant. I was told all the time that EMTs are a dime a dozen, and I could be replaced in an instant if I were to question anything or rock the boat in anyway. Because of this I never felt like I could speak my mind when things bothered me... whether it was a call, or whether it was the way I was treated. I suppressed my emotions about everything, and I blew off mistreatment from patients, coworkers, or assiting agencies. I was physically attacked by patients, I was called every name in the book by patients, I had inappropriate advances from coworkers, I was called names by coworkers, and the worst of all is I never let myself feel ANYTHING about a call... no matter how terrible it was because I didn't want to be perceived as weak or dramatic. The problem with this is... numb is numb. You can't just turn on emotions when you get home. You become an emotional zombie - moving through the world, but dead.
During my years on the ambulance I pursued my degree... I didn't really have a plan as to what I would do with a college degree, but it made me feel like I was working towards a future, instead of simply surviving in the present. During my time in college I got married, and I had my daughter, When she was 3 years old her father and I divorced. I realized I had married into chaos and dysfunction, different, but also similar to what I had known as a child. I would've given anything for my marriage to survive, but I had to leave... it wasn't healthy for me or for her. So, I became a single mom...
As any parent knows, having a child changes you as a human.... it's suddenly no longer all about you. Having a kid causes you to evaluate your path... where you've been... where you're going... for the first time in my life, I started developing a plan of where I wanted my life to go instead of just surviving through each day. I knew I no longer wanted to be on the ambulance. I knew I wanted to find my purpose in life. I wanted to be an inspiration to my daughter to take chances in this world, to believe in herself that she could do anything her heart desired, and to know that she is capable of great things.... something that was never instilled in me as a child.
So, through a crazy turn of events I quit the ambulance, moved her and myself across state lines, and started a personal training business... I had one client... and no safety net. I knew it was risky, but I couldn't go back to the life I was living... I had to discover what I was capable of... what this world had to offer... and what it meant to truly live a life built on faith - faith in myself that I was smart enough, strong enough, and capable of doing more than I thought possible... and faith in God to take care of me and my daughter along the way. It has been a rollercoaster at times... it is much easier working for someone else and receiving a paycheck, but for me, it wasn't as rewarding. Being an entrepreneuer is the equivalent of being a parent.... it really has changed me as a person. I can no longer live in the mindset of fear. I have to trust myself to make the right decisions. I have to believe in myself... that I am capable of hard things, that I will be successfull no matter the circumstances. I have had to become a leader instead of following the herd. I have had to travel alone at times, and I've had to learn to lean on others for support too. I have had to learn live outside my comfort zone.... and I have had to have more introspection of who I really am, and who I really want to be more than ever before. I've had to level up, and become who I am today... and I am so grateful for it all.
It's actually kinda cool that I have 40 years of wisdom and experience under my belt, yet I feel like I'm just getting started and I have so much more to learn. I think that perspective has made turning 40 feel nothing like a mid-life "crisis"... instead it makes me look forward to my future with optimism... My life has been an amazing journey to say the least. From the girl who was terrified of being noticed, to someone who is ready to take on the world... I may be considered mid-life by worldly standards, but I'm just getting started with fulfilling my purpose on this earth. My mess is becoming my message... I can't wait to see where God leads me next, to deliver that message to help others get healthy physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually along the way.
To the next 40 years and beyond! :)