Confession: I Am 35

I am 35.

I don’t know if that really qualifies as a confession.  Or if that’s what I really mean to confess.

Maybe what I should have written is Confession: I am 35 and I’m not married and I don’t have kids and I’m not a publisher and I don’t own a big house or a car and I’m not where I always thought I would be at 35.

But that’s really too long for a title.  So I condense.  I am 35.

Sometimes it feels like I’m being left behind.

I am the bridesmaid, standing at the altar in the pink satin dress and matching shoes that I will never wear again, heart cracking a little each time I’m not the one saying “I Do.”  Each time someone else is chosen ‘for better or worse’.

I am “Aunt Katie”, aunt in quotes because I’m really not the aunt, just the stand in, that title bestowed upon single friends who gaze wistfully at sleeping babies and buy the impractical dresses with tutus because they’re just too cute to resist.  Who think when another baby is born, “this may not happen for me”, and die a tiny death each time.

I am the sales rep, I am the apartment dweller, I am the car leaser.  Nothing too permanent, nothing that lasts.  It’s a life lived in pencil instead of pen.  It can be erased in an instant.

I’m not where I always thought I would be at 35.

I was emailing with a male friend this week, marveling about our mutual friend who is having her third baby (THREE children?!?  How could that be?!).  I trotted out some of my canned lines about having children.  I prepared them years ago, anything to avoid the pitying stares that get doled out to the childless 30-somethings:

“I’m SO not ready to have children.”

“I can’t even take care of a plant.”

“I want to be able to plan an impromptu trip to Vietnam without coordinating with husbands/carpools/nannies/schools. I want to just get on a plane and go.”

I say them so frequently that I barely even know what they mean anymore.  They’re just lines in a play that I repeat back from memory with the same practiced gestures, the same indifferent expression, the blocking of this scene always the same.  But somehow this week, I actually heard what I was saying.  Maybe because I was talking to a male friend and I didn’t feel any pressure, or competition, or hint of pity from him (possibly because those without a ticking biological clock don’t know better).  Or maybe because I’m hitting a milestone birthday with regard to having children.  Or perhaps I just got it for the first time.

I really meant what I said.  I am not ready to have children.  I kill every plant I’ve ever had.  I do want to just get on a plane and go.  It’s all really, really true.   

So here I sit, throwing a pity party for one, mourning the loss of this imagined life.  Dreaming longingly about a life that, as it turns out, doesn’t even fit.  It’s like waking up and finding that the pair of shoes you have been completely lusting over for months actually pinch your toes and don’t look good on you because they are so not your style.  But you wanted them because everyone else wanted them so they must be special and so you just had to have them.

The night before my birthday, I began reading a book that just arrived by Karen Salmansohn called “Instant Happy”.  It includes simple but meaningful messages about finding happiness in your life.  One passage stood out in particular from the others on this birthday eve:

 “Much of the pain in life comes from having a life plan that you’ve fallen in love with, but that doesn’t work out.  Having to find a new life plan hurts.  The trick is not to become too attached to any particular life plan and remember that there is always a better, even-happier life plan out there somewhere.”

What?  You mean we’re not stuck with this dream that was formed at age 11, or at 25, or last night?  We can actually do a re-write?  Go back and choose a different path, like those Choose Your Own Adventure books that everyone read in the 80s?  I always read every ending.  I had to be sure I chose the right one, had to know what options existed so that I could change my mind and go another way.

I can choose my own adventure now.  I can explore every ending.  I can re-write the story, within every chapter even.  I can change the outcome.  I can change my confession.

Confession: I am 35.

I am loved.

I am successful.

I am following my passions.

I am an “intrepid traveler” (thanks JH!)

I am a writer.

And…I am happy.

I’ll choose that ending for today.





62 thoughts on “Confession: I Am 35

  1. This is beautiful. I suppose the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I will be 35 in November, I am married, I have the house and the car and the kids, yet I often wonder “what-if?” What-if I had waited to get married and have kids. Would I have a big career now? Would I have traveled all over the world? Lived in Paris? Had adventures? In many ways, I look at my life and say “well this is it” My adventures were over before they even began. It is always interesting to hear a perspective fomr the other side of the fence.

    • Thank you for sharing the other side of that dream….I guess the most important thing is that we find the happiness within our choices and if we can’t, to make some new ones. xx

  2. I ALWAYS read every outcome because there never seemed to be a “right “one. They all seemed to intrigue in some way. How nice to “choose” which direction to go in whenever we want! Well-written for the over-30-unmarried-single gals who are IN LOVE WITH LIFE. x

  3. Katie, A delayed happy birthday–and I loved this piece of writing. I so remember the books and read all the endings too. Your life, and you, are so special.

  4. I think being satisfied with where you are in life is a successful one in itself. We can’t all follow the same plotline and I’m glad you aren’t letting life narrate you, but instead being one of the best damn storytellers of your own life that I ever met! I hope you do it all, but on your own terms.

    Happy birthday Katie! I think you’re the absolute best!

  5. Really well done. You hit a truth I believe a lot of people are searching for. Thank you for your honesty and good writing. =)

  6. I SOOOO relate to this post- it’s the very reason I started 365 til 30! I looked at my life approaching 30 and was shocked by the way it looked. I thought it would look sooooo different. Life has a funny way of working out. I believe it’s all unfolding exactly as it should:) Love you. Happiest of birthdays my sweet. xo

  7. I really appreciate your voice- in all your pieces -but especially this one. This piece resonates a truth for a lot of people including me. 🙂 Truly choosing your own path in the face of the enormous social machine that prescribes how we “ought” to live our lives, is a herculean task requiring independence of thought and a tough skin. Liberating!

  8. I love this post and can relate on so many levels! Being a “bit” older and living out a similar lifestyle I can say I battle with this everyday. Thank you for showing me that my choices are what is best for me and to let go “what I should be”. Love you KD!

  9. In our society it’s somehow not acceptable to just say: I don’t want children. It sounds selfish and there seems to be the stereotype that every woman desires being a mother. But then – should not every child be born because its parents truly want the baby? And in the overall scheme of things, does this planet really need more babies? I’m not saying one or the other is right, but people who don’t want kids are certainly not selfish or just too lazy to change nappies.

    • I don’t think it sounds selfish at all–it sounds honest and real and responsible to me. Owning up to what we want is courageous and should never be judged…bravo to you for being true to you!

  10. This was a great read. I can relate to some of this & often get frustrated about it. Thank you for reminding me that I am not alone in my single & childless predicament. Society is too judgmental about what should be happening in our lives at certain ages & I hate that.

  11. This is a fabulous post. I relate to much of what you’ve written especially regarding the children and “I’m not where I expected to be at this age” bit. Once we realize that this is all part of our journey and we’re wildly fabulous, I think that’s where things start to get good. Like really good. 🙂

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  13. This spoke to me so, so much today. Thank you! It reminds me a lot of one of this quote by Joseph Campbell: “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” May you revel in all the wonderful 35 has brought you thus far 🙂 I’m sure there’s lots more to come.

  14. I always felt like I was so far behind in comparison to everyone else around me. Sometimes, I still do. I’m still learning how to be okay in my own skin, and on my own timeline. An overused expression these days, but true nonetheless: “Do YOU.” 🙂

  15. Happy Belated Birthday! Mine was actually…the day of this post! January 31. (And I am 25 lol). Also, yes, You are Successful! Love !

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  18. I just read “I’m 35 And Single. Here’s Why It’s Amazing And Terrible” on Mind Body Green, and just wanted to thank you for expressing in words my exact feelings. I will be 35 in June, and am among the last in my group of friends (even the younger friends) that are not married with children. I don’t even have a boyfriend. We adapt because we must. The alternative is unlivable. I’ve stopped reciting my well-rehearsed lines. I’ve reached a place where I still care, but am too tired of the “game” to keep playing. I will find someone when I find someone. Until then, I live, and I become the best damn me that I can be.
    Cheers to you, Katie!

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  21. Having turned 35 in October I find myself searching out articles on people turning 35 as well. There is something about this age that just seems to create panic in women. Finding myself single and still very much adrift, I totally relate to feeling like I am living my life in pencil and not pen. I never comment on blogs, but this one I felt like I had to. I was having a rough morning considering all the things that are missing in my life right now and this helped me have a little more perspective. Thanks 🙂

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