Oct 16, 2013

The Birthday Post: My 26th Year Highlight (and Lowlight) Reel


This morning I woke up to sound of my phone dinging off the hook. The birthday messages had started rolling in the second the clock hit midnight in Germany. My first birthday wisher? My mom. "Happy Birthday in the future!!" She likes to think I live in the future. I do, kind of...6 hours ahead of the entire East Coast. 
My 27th year of life has officially begun. 

I was laying in bed last night, D already snoring away, thinking about my 26th year and how fast it flew by. As I get older, the years move along quicker and quicker. Why is that? We don't necessarily get busier. We don't shorten the weeks and turn forward our clocks each day. My guess is we don't stop to enjoy the moment we're in enough, so life speeds on by and another year we grow older. Truth be told, 26 wasn't my favorite year ever. In fact, it was one of my harder ones. Not because of any major event in my life (no one passed away, no one did me harm), no, not even for anything anyone around me would have noticed. 26 was hard for reasons I've held onto in the quiet of my mind. I know what you're thinking...I've got an amazing marriage, a loving family, I'm living abroad, and I've traveled my little heart out...how could year 26 bring me anything but good memories? You're so right. On the outside, 26 was good. REAL GOOD. But on the inside, 26 felt old. For the first time in my life I felt old. Old and behind on every significant milestone I'd ever planned for myself.

Don't roll your eyes at me. I realize 26 isn't old at all, but as this past year marched on, my age...mentally, emotionally, and physically...made itself glaringly present to me. My body felt different. I've somehow developed a knee problem that's nagged me all year. I began to daze in bewilderment at the fact that my little sister is 23 (twenty-three!?!), on her own, and living and breathing the New York City fashion industry. Isn't she still 17 and I hate her guts? Weren't we just there? Wasn't I just 23? I've gotten phone calls from my mom relaying news that my little cousin was off to her Senior prom...and that my baby niece isn't a quite a baby anymore, she's halfway to 2. I've sat and watched my Facebook newsfeed clutter with pregnancy announcements and "We're Homeowners!" party invites and class reunion reminders and new job congratulations. With every page refresh, slowly but surely my brain started melting into one giant pile of anxious ageism. The floodgates of comparison, jealousy, impatience, guilt, and confusion gave way in year 26 and I became my own worst critic. The pressure of comparing where I was at 26 and where everyone else my age was in their own lives started weighing heavy on my heart. My life felt in standstill here in Germany. There's not much to do here but travel, not that I'm complaining, really. And it's been our choice to hold off on expanding our family. But the second I turned 26, it's as if the goals and timestamps I'd always set for myself either broke into pieces or began waving their hands with fury-- "You're not getting any younger! We're still here! When's it our turn?!" I spent many days in year 26 with a knot in my stomach and the weight of all my dreams and aspirations crushing my shoulders. I really couldn't tell you why my 26th year decided to wage this internal war on me. Why not year 28? Or 30, even? Seems like a lot of premature worry for a mere 26-year-old. But that's my story. 26 be damned.

Today, I'm 27 and the dark cloud has lifted. Today, I'm another year older, but the knot is gone and the only weight on my shoulders is the decision of which restaurant I'll pick for my birthday dinner tonight. Hint: it's probably German food. This year, I've resolved to stop letting my age and the preconceived milestones that go along with it, define me. I've realized that the only one placing these life deadlines on me was me. I've been my own worst enemy this past year, and it's time I wash myself of it all. I hate to tell such a melancholy "woe is me" story on a day that really does bring such happiness to me (birthday's really, truly are my favorite things in the world). But I guess I just wanted to share that even though I seem like I've got it all figured out most days (bloggers are really good at showing you all the good stuff, you know), I struggle with life, too. Even awesome stuff like birthdays. The expat birthday is a whole other beast, but I'll save that whiny post for another year. As stupid and irrational as my thoughts about my age were last year, they took up a lot of my time and energy with worry and feelings of insecurity. They also taught me a lot about what's good and special about my life and the path that it's taken these last few years. God has a true and perfect plan, and I spent most of year 26 arguing with Him about it. You'd think I'd know better by now! This year...my beautiful 27th year...I'm letting go of control and giving it back to the One who gave me life in the first place. I'm taking time to enjoy every second I'm given instead of comparing my moments to someone else's. The birthday gift I'm giving myself this year? A break.

On a bit happier note (because I can't leave this birthday post without telling you these things), this day of birth has already shaped up to be quite lovely. D surprised me with going into work late and making me breakfast in bed. Aww, right? I've got the crème de la crème of husbands. We snuggled in our PJ's, sipped coffee, and he sang happy birthday to me in the silly voice he always does. I wish he could have spent the day with me, but duty calls (poo poo to weekday birthday's, AMEN?). After he left for work, I got an email from him. Subject: A Birthday Gift. I opened the email to find that he'd written an entire blog post for me (and for you). A BLOG POST! All about his perspective as the husband of a blogger. He said he couldn't think of a better gift than to write something from his heart to share on something so near and dear to my heart. I, of course, ugly cried as I read through the words he wrote. The tears are still warm on my cheeks. Guys, I don't know what I did to deserve such a fella, but my heart is practically bursting with love for him this morning. And I absolutely can't wait to share his post with you soon! So far, 27 feels...better. I'm sure it will come with its own bundle of ups and downs, but that's the grand ride of life, isn't it? I'm hopeful that as I continue to grow older, age will continue to be just a number instead of a reminder of choices made and life gone by. Cheers to living for today...no regrets, no comparisons. 


A few of the highlights that helped keep my sanity in year 26:
Falling in love with Bruges
The love from this post on Blogging Currency
Skiing in Zermatt (which I'll blog about someday, swear it!)
The encouragement from this post on Extraordinary Love
The introduction of my Pros & Cons of Living in Germany series
Our fabulous Mediterranean Cruise!
Celebrating 6 years of wedded bliss in French wine country
Going home to NC for the 5th time!


Every year on your birthday, you get the chance to start new. -Sammy Hagar

46 comments:

  1. Happy birthday, sweet friend! Your 27th year is going to rock for you; I know how hard it is for your life to feel like it's at a standstill. But hang on...once it starts moving again, things will be crazy! Can't wait to read the guest post from D :) Wishing you all good (and yummy) things today!

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  2. Happy Birthdya Casey! I turn 27 in March.

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  3. Happy Birthday! I hope it's wonderful!

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  4. Happy Birthday!

    I definitely am not rolling my eyes at you. I'm 24 - I feel old, 'behind' on my milestones... everyone else is getting employed, getting married, getting pregnant, getting home loans... Maybe my next birthday will see me shed that weight off of my shoulders, like it has for you! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hahaha yay!! Thank you, Annabel! There's quite a lot of pressure on us 20-something's these days. Here's to marching to the beat of our own drums! :)

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  5. Happy birthday, gorgeous! I know what you mean about feeling like you're in a standstill... but those things will come, and when they do it'll be at the right time, and the joy will burst from you like meteors falling from the sky!

    Hope you have the absolute BEST DAY EVER! xx

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  6. thank God for awesome husbands! i can't wait to read what he wrote! and i can relate with the ageism. at the ripe old (young?) age of 25 and living abroad i at times feel like i'm 'missing out' on what i had 'planned' (aka daydreamed in college) about what i would should could be doing right now. for me it's the confusion on what i want in life, what i want to be doing now. it's the time where i need to sit back, rethink my priorities and be dang thankful for where i'm at NOW and not worry about all the other shtuff. He has a plan and it's sure going to beat what you or I had planned for ourselves anyway! I hope you have a better than amazing day : )

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  7. Happy Birthday, Casey! I hope today and the year ahead are more carefree and brighter! Your words ring true with me and I definitely need take your wise advice...no regrets, no comparisons.

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  8. Happy birthday hun, here's to a fantastic 27th year and to worrying less. I'm 29 in 10 days and feel like other people have been imposing their milestones (the thought of children being the main one) on me this last year, but I'm comfortable now with knowing that it'll happen when Hubby and I are ready and not when other people think we're ready! Have a great day xx

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  9. Happy happy birthday!! Here's to embracing a new year ahead!

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  10. Happy, happy birthday! I hope you just have a phenomenal year, one that surprises even you with all the sweet blessings that are in store :)

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    1. Oh sweet Meghan, thank you so much!! Looking forward to it being the best year yet! :)

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  11. Happy birthday sweet friend, enjoy your day!!

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  12. Happy Birthday!!! and great post! I have felt the same way as I feel my 25th birthday approaching. I am nowhere near where I thought I'd be in life and I have to remind myself constantly that I am not old. But for some reason 25 is looming over me. It's nice to hear that I am not alone on this one! I hope you have a fabulous rest of your birthday!

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  13. Happy happy birthday! Hope you have a great day!

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  14. Aw! Happy Birthday! I cannot wait to read your husband's blog post!

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  15. Happy birthday! I totally relate when it comes to feeling in suspended animation in Germany. Even though we've loved being stationed here and traveling and exploring, my goals and aspirations are nagging at me to get on with things. Some days being a trailing spouse can be so frustrating! I hope 27 brings lots of fun, new things for you!

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    1. Exactly. I love, love, love the opportunity we've been given...but I still can't help but think about where I thought my life would be had Germany not happened. It's hard to put those thoughts to bed some days. Thanks for the birthday love!! :)

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  16. Happy Birthday! As you get older, you definitely feel the pressure of everyone else's lives - just try to ignore it and live your own. I'm confident you'll eventually get all the things you're wanting, and 27 will be a great year for you. Happy Birthday again and can't wait to read his post!

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  17. Every year has its ups and downs, but I think I understand where you're coming from with the pressures you felt while 26. Isn't it funny how sometimes the pressures we put on ourselves are more intimidating and difficult than those put on us by others? Here's to 27 - the best year yet?!

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    1. I know it! I'm my own worst enemy most days. Thanks, girl!

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  18. Happy Birthday!! I turned 26 in April and I gotta tell you, I have felt old since then. It's like 26 hit a switch... I was no longer a kid anymore. I'm married, have my own kid, and I'm on the downhill to 30. But hey, life is good!

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  19. Happy Birthday!!! What a sweet and thoughtful gift from your husband!
    I know what you mean about age and milestones. I just turned 28 in September and had a sort of crisis about it. I have quite a few milestones that I feel like "should" have been hit already, so in my mind I'm thinking, "well, now I'm going to be THIS old before this happens, and I'm going to be THIS old before that happens..." There aren't enough years left to catch up. :) It's all in our heads of course, but it can be so hard not to think like that. To everything there is a season...

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  20. Well, I haven't even read the blog post from your "D", however just imagining what he "would" write about you already had my eyes filling! Happy birthday honey....I have an age story to share with you. When I turned "40", I truly wasn't sad about it...in fact, I felt pretty good about it because I didn't feel or think I looked 40...UNTIL...I got to work and my co-worker, Amy (then Hassell) had posted signs everywhere...I mean EVERYWHERE..."Lordy, Lordy, look who's 40!" As I began removing them, I felt older and older! Now isn't that silly...That was 14 years ago, but just like you mentioned, the time DOES go faster as we grow older....Enjoy your day, love you!

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    1. I can't wait for you to read it! Thanks, Mama B! And I would have murdered that woman! LOVE YOU!

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  21. Happy Birthday! Don't feel bad about doubts the past year. I remember when I hit those dreaded years that sent me sliding to my 30's I questioned everything. It wasn't until I hit 30 last year that I really had to stop and think about where I was at in life and realize I was really happy and content. No stigma of age or where I should or shouldn't be in life could make me feel bad. Yeah there are still days where I dream of that perfect man for me, or the family I want one day, but then I realize I've got it okay. Because I'm waiting for those things for when they are right for me.
    So don't doubt yourself. You're life is amazing, and one that I'm sure many or envious of. Enjoy the day. Live it up. Heck enjoy the year! From what you show us you have an amazing life, and are doing a great job of appreciating it.
    And thanks for writing. It makes life in small town Montana more enjoyable.

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  22. Happy Birthday! I truly hope you've had a wonderful day! I must say though that your post was refreshing to read. At almost 25 I've really struggled with feeling old, being behind on my timeline, and essentially just being content here in Germany. (Even though my life does feel very much on hold.) Thanks for the reminder that God has the BEST plan for our lives.

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  23. Happy Birthday pretty! I completely understand where you're coming from. At 31 my life is "on hold" because I quit my job and moved out of state with my husband while he attends grad school. I have an almost daily battle with myself about planning versus throwing the plan out the window and enjoying the little things day by day. Cheers to 27! Glad you have a positive outlook for the next year. :)

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  24. Happy Birthday!

    I bawled my eyes out when I turned 26, you're not alone!

    And skiing in Zermatt. Finally something I have also done! :-)

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  25. This is such a beautiful post, and I'm sure I'm not the only one to appreciate your vulnerability. It's so easy to look at others and be jealous of what they have instead of thankful of what we have. I know sometimes I get that way reading your travel posts! I just have to remind myself that I already had my chance to live in France, and I didn't have to do it as a military wife (seriously, military spouses are so inspiring--I couldn't do it!). Your path is different than others, and that's okay! You wouldn't have nearly so many blog readers if we all thought your path was a bad one. ;)

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    1. Aww thank you so, so much, Belle! I kind of felt like a poop head writing such sad and whiny things on my birthday, but I knew I really needed to get it out of my head and onto "paper" so I could move onto year 27 with a clean slate. I'm glad you can relate! Thanks for your super encouraging words, my friend! :)

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  26. Happy Birthday!! I am confident all of your dreams will come true. You know the saying "When you wish upon a star...." I love seeing the world through your eyes.

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    1. Thank you so much, Tammy! That warms my heart :)

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  27. Happy Birthday!
    I've been in your shoes - thought they weren't living the expat life at the time. I was having a blast traveling for work, enjoying it being just the two of us, but at the same time, I wondered if we were falling behind.
    Here we are - hubs 33, me 32. Our little one just under a year old. You know what? She was born at the perfect time - for us! That's the thing about you living your life, it's yours to live & time or not time however you want.
    I hope 27 is full of love, wonder, joy and God's peace of mind for you. There is likely to still be some "should we be doing that" at the next FB congratulatory post, but know that others are probably feeling the same little doubts when they read about your wonderful experiences!
    Can't wait to read your hub's birthday post to you!
    Don't you just love being in love with your husband? :-) It's like living in our romantic comedy - but with the occasional bad breath morning kiss!
    Have a great year!

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    1. Thank you so much for this, Myrna! I know God's got it handled...I just need to trust in his timing and enjoy the wonderful opportunity I've got here abroad before it's gone! I can't wait to share the post he wrote either! He's a pretty amazing hubby. :)

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  28. Belated happy birthday! I hope your day was so, so special!

    I relate so much to feeling like living in Germany has brought things to a stand still. That has been my 25th year to a tee, though for me it has been more of a career stand-still.

    I started really glorifying "when we get back to the States I can {insert professional activities I can't do in Germany—get back in the classroom, get involved with CSAs and local farms, volunteer again, etc.} and subconsciously, started wishing the time away. Despite all of our amazing adventures, I certainly wasn't living in and enjoying the present. It wasn't until about a month ago that it hit me how short our time here really is. Soon enough we'll be back in the States and, hopefully, those things will be happening, but I know that there is a part of me that will always miss this special time in our lives!

    Enjoy this year and all the changes {and challenges} it brings! Happy 27th!

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    1. Thank you so much, Lauren! Glad to know you get where I'm coming from. We've got just a few months left here and I'm determined now to make them the best ones yet! All that other stuff can wait. :)

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  29. Happy belated birthday Casey.

    To be honest, 26 was sort of like that for me too. Even into 27 as well and maybe a touch in 28. I remember being concerned about where I was (figuratively) and what I 'should' be doing and feeling. How would I accomplish all of those things I figured I'd have done before 30? Is this it - adulthood? But, 29 was fantastic and 30 has been even better. I've learned to give up on the lists on what I should accomplish by such and such age and just be in the moment. It's much more refreshing and rewarding.

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  30. Happy Birthday Casey! I hope your 27th year is the best yet :) As a 26, going on 27 year old who isn't even married yet {gasp!}, I know exactly how you feel with the pregnancies and home ownerships... it can be overwhelming. But, I'm glad you aren't going to let it get you down anymore... I can guarantee you every single one of those people is also a little envious of you and your life in Germany. There is plenty of time for homes and children! Glad D spoiled you... you definitely found a keeper :)

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  31. Happy belated birthday! Here is to a wonderful year ahead.

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  32. I'm late to the party! Happiest birthday wishes to you Casey! Cheers to all of your birthday wishes coming true :) Bisous de Provence xx

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  33. I think it's easy to get caught up with what you haven't acheived as you get older, but then you've got friends and family to remind you and keep you grounded at what you HAVE achieved. I think for a traveler it's especially hard to see life moving on without them back home, and friends getting married and buying houses and settling, when you're own life is up in the air. But at the end of the day, I remember that I chose adventure, not normality. Here's to your 27th year!!

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  34. Alles gute zum Geburtstag! Every year has it's troubles, but I know you find the best in it all!

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  35. I'm late, but Happy Birthday!!! :)
    I'm with you on the comparisons and crushed by ambitions and unfulfilled dreams, and I'm 24?!? Thanks for sharing that, it does seem to me like my life has been put on hold since we moved and like we're just never going to be where our friends are in their lives... but you're right, that's ok. I wish you everything of the best for the next year and I'm sure that with God as Captain and D by your side, living in His plans for you, it'll be an awesome year :)

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I appreciate your feedback, friends! I read every comment and try my hardest to respond to each one, but if your email address isn't attached to your blogger profile, you might find my response in the comment thread instead. As always, thanks for reading!

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