Tomorrow is the 35th anniversary of my birth…and I’m pretty pumped about it actually. As with every other year, I’m all psyched up and ready to celebrate my BIRTHDAY MONTH (that’s right…I celebrate all month long).
So this is my last day as a 34-year old and while I’m not all wrapped up in the number, it did get me reflecting back on the first 35 years of my life. I’ll spare you the full details of my walk down memory lane and only share the highlights.
I was born on August 1, 1980, a Friday.
I was raised in a log house in a teeny-tiny PA town that didn’t have a single traffic light. I have an older brother and 2 much younger sisters. My mom is wonderful – the original Wonder Woman. My father is another story. They divorced when I was in my late 20s. I haven’t seen or heard from my father since 2006 and I’m not the least bit upset about that.
I went to a small state university in southern PA with the desire to study law. I worked full-time and went to school full-time for most of my college years and graduated with honors in December 2002.
I moved from PA to MD in April 2003 right before I was diagnosed with psoriasis which (for a time) took my skin, most of my hair and a few fingernails. After months of pain and ineffective treatments, I changed my diet and the disease released its grip on me, the way it’s stayed for many years but I’m acutely aware that there’s a chance the disease could ultimately destroy my joints.
And life continued.
In my mid-late 20s, I married my college love, settled into adulthood, and “accidentally” started running (read about that HERE). Later, I began to test the limits of my physical abilities and found a new love of fitness.
I worked out alone until January 2013 when I joined a training facility near my house. A year later, I was asked to start and lead a running club there which I did LIKE A CHAMP. Initially, 25 people signed up, it grew from there, I got my coaching certification, started training a packed weekly class and inspired many to take on new challenges. I built a family out of relative strangers and my influence and coaching changed lives. I found my purpose and passion.
Then everything changed.
In February 2015, I had to leave the training facility that I’d called home for more than 2 years – the place where I felt my passion and purpose originated. I wondered if it could exist outside those 4 walls. Hardest decision I ever made but over the months that followed, I made peace with it and began to heal.
In June, the healing stalled. I still felt the stabbing pain in my chest when I saw a photo of “the good ole days” – my mind still haunted by “what ifs”. I was stuck grieving the loss of the person I thought I was and the life I thought I was meant to have; grieving the loss of many people who were once very close to me; and grieving the loss of my naïveté.
For a while, I believed that I might never stop grieving, fearing that an empty space would exist in me forever. Every day, I grew more and more frustrated with my apparent inability to heal the wound.
I just wanted to be normal again.
But the truth is that grief changes people. Often in unimaginable ways. All along, I’d been thinking that I wasn’t healed until I felt like the old me again. So while I was busy trying to project that the loss hadn’t affected me, the reality was that I wasn’t – and will never again be – the same person that I was before. I’d survived the war but my life was different, I was different. And that’s okay.
Different, not damaged.
In the apparent dismantling of who I was, I was systematically transformed into the person I was truly meant to be. In that revelation, I realized that I had all I needed to be happy and the grief that lingered for what felt like ages began to fade away. I’d been holding the keys to my own prison and I was ready to unlock the door. I made some massive decisions about the direction of my life and now I’m about to embark on an unexpected but super awesome new adventure and I’m practically bursting with excitement.
I have never felt as happy, determined, proud, confident, wise, and open as I do in this moment. I’m an incredible woman with a big heart, powerful little body, and warrior spirit. I have NOTHING to be ashamed of. No one else walked this path but me and through it all, I’ve endured and got exponentially stronger. It gave me the confidence to take the next big step in my life.
Everything I’ve done has led me here, exactly where I was meant to be on the eve of my 35th birthday.
So as I close my eyes this evening, I give myself the 1st of 2 birthday presents – permission to close the book. Today, I’m saying good-bye to it all: the lingering threads of grief, hurt, guilt, judgment, regrets, “what if”s, doubt, fear and expectations. From this day forward, I live my life for Alison – because I believe that she’s absolutely earned the happiness she’s found. And I do so smarter and in full recognition of what and who has proven to be real in my life and in full appreciation for what and who has chosen to remain with me after it all.
Tonight, I raise my glass to me, the most awesome person I know. Here’s to the next 35 and buckle your seat belts cuz I’m about to take the awesomeness up about 50 notches. (More on that, my latest adventure, and the second birthday present I’m giving myself in tomorrow’s blog post…you won’t want to miss it!)
To Awesome Alison!