My teenage years were nothing to brag about. I had friends, but I never truly fit in. I loved performing in plays, but if I got a part at all, it was some background role with less than 3 lines. I was actually accepted to a performing arts school. It was the school's pilot year and the auditions were rigorous. Being accepted meant something... well, at least it did to me. I was in the
one and only performing arts class in the whole school.
We pranced around in our tights and leg warmers and started impromptu dance routines in the cafeteria (yes, really, just like that 80s show Fame). Anyway, the school was putting on Oliver! for their yearly play and auditions were open to the whole school. Of course, pretty much my entire class auditioned. We expected, however arrogantly, that we'd all secure lead roles... after all, we were living and breathing theatre all day, every day. The casting sheets went up and quite a few of my classmates were given some juicy roles... but not me. I looked down the sheet (I had my eye on the role of Nancy) and beside "Dying woman" was my name. This part is so insignificant, they couldn't be bothered to include it in the movie. I asked about the role and the director (my drama teacher) said she had... you guessed it... 3 lines. Oh goodie! I was... crushed. What crushed me even more is that although there are no small roles, I realized, without a doubt, I was a small actor. And that truly sucked. I had a dream and I let my ego get in my way. I quit the program. I was young... what did I know?
I was also a pretty sickly teenager... I suffered from yearly bouts of bronchitis, chronic tonsillitis (had them finally removed at 21... now that was a party in my mouth), and had mononucleosis 6 times (I was told people could only catch it once, but lucky me, I defied all odds). Oh and laryngitis... let's not forget the countless times I had no voice.... and I talk more than I write, so yeah... that was hard.
So when I look back on my teenage years, it's hard to summon up a whole lot of heartfelt fondness. The best part of my teenage years was spending hours on end collaborating with my best friend writing songs in her basement. Now that was awesome.
I got married at 22. I spent my 20s between adventure seeking, trying my best to define myself and jumping through hoops to please my husband. He was mentally ill – before we knew anything about mental illness – and during his bad times he was incredibly abusive. I wish the good times outweighed the bad, but they didn't. Well, that's not entirely true. I was blessed with both my children and for that reason alone, I would not change one thing... but I wouldn't go back.
Oh, and my 30s, well, they weren't a cake walk either. I had to sneak my kids to a shelter, get a restraining order against my soon to be ex-husband, had to learn to cope as a single mother working full time... driving my kids to daycare and before school programs and rushing to get back to pick them up, I was told I was going blind and needed emergency surgery (I did and all went very well). When I bought my very first townhouse, I had 5 cents in my bank account until my next pay cheque. I was grateful the fridge was full (more or less) and my car had a half tank of gas to get me through. I lived with the constant pain of Fibromyalgia, which rendered me flat on my face most of the time, except I didn't want my kids to see me in pain, so I refused to expose the obvious: my cringing expression and tears. My ex-husband committed suicide, leaving me with the aftermath of picking up the pieces for my kids. It was a complicated grief.
My 40s have been far better than the previous decades. I fell in love and remarried. But the blended family syndrome is very real even in the best possible scenario. I had a great husband and great kids, yet, the dynamics created some strain for everyone. It happens... and I'm certainly not the first woman to go through it.
I also worked hard – very hard – in a career that drained me. I was lucky, the company was a good company. I was well paid. But I just wasn't happy. I wasn't following my tug. One day I looked down at my relatively new car's odometer and it read 64,000 km. From home to work and from work to home with a few side trips here and there, but basically that was my life... right there on the odometer staring me down. Moving, but not going anywhere. Travelling, without exploration. This observation depressed me. I took stalk and made some significant changes. My husband and I decided to sell up and move to Costa Rica. And we did. Best decision ever.
SO, you can only imagine how I might be feeling about entering my 50s. I'm not looking back. I'm building my tug muscle. I'm stretching and growing... growing younger in fact. Yup, that's what I said. Since making the decision to live my best life, I've lost over 20 pounds, my cholesterol has stabilized, I'm in better mental, emotional, physical and spiritual shape I've ever been in. I love my life. I feel younger and more vibrant. So if this is 50, bring it on. I will never look back in anger because my history is part of who I've become.
Today... that's what I have to work with and I'm going to do my best to keep moving forward while always making sure I end up 'somewhere' better than the day before.
So, happy birthday to me.