I'll be 36 in 18 days. I hadn't really thought about it much until I was glancing through some notes tonight and realized it's January.
"My birthday is in January."
I have never been big on birthdays since the days have long passed when we would pass the parcel and eat hot dogs from lucky plates. Birthdays have not really meant much since I started realizing I have never really achieved, or have hit, any of the milestones that societal norms tell us we should have hit by now.
According to many I should be:
Making cookies for the boys.
I made a decision a long time ago to put my energy and focus into my education and career to try and benefit the industry that I have grown up in and that has sustained my family for generations.
Anyone who knows me knows I have pretty much run up against the norm my entire life, butting heads with it and always being at odds. I think that started the day my mother tried to get pictures taken when I was a toddler and to this day has wound up with an 8 x 10 of crooked buckles, sideways hair and a strung out dress.
Maybe it is rooted in the day when she took me to Sunday school and dad laughed in the car as I braced myself on the door and refused to go in.
Maybe it was when I was 6 going on 7 and marked Xs on Rudolph's carrots, analyzed Santa's handwriting and concluded it was all a sham.
Nobody can ever accuse me of not being thorough.
I have never been overly feminine, never one to bend to what is expected though there was a time when I was a quiet mouse and rolling with the tide.
A scattered smack by a "partner" to try and keep me in line certainly did the opposite and unearthed a surge of rage and spite in me I've carried with me since those days.
And I can't say I regret it.
At 36 I know a lot of people look at me and wonder what is wrong. Why have I not "been able to settle down," ticked off boxes and settled into the Kenmount Terrace house with the 2.5 kids and husband working offshore, why i have chosen to make it on my own and work in an industry that is tumultuous on the best of days and tangly as a load of nets on the other?
I have an answer to that, and tonight, as I was talking to a new friend who I have had the pleasure of meeting this year, I realized I am not alone in this. As he said, " I gave up a lot to come here, sold my business, went to work for someone else, friends, cottage, I owned my house, owned everything...but it was fucking worth it!" I realized there is one overarching reason why I am who and where I am -
For far too long, we have all settled. Ideals, norms, yardsticks by which we are to measure ourselves.
"What do you think about so and so and their new home? Look at the wedding pictures! Why do you work so much? How about all of those babies? You're not getting any younger..."
And the pressures never go away. The judgement, the eyes, the criticisms.
The answer to it all is timing. As much as we are fed ideals of high school romance that blossoms into the marriage and the white picket fence, the family, career and PTA meetings, sometimes that is not what is in store for all of us.
Sometimes we aren't meant to fit into those boxes.
Sometimes there are anomalies to the norm and we challenge what is shoved down our throats from the time we pick up our baby dolls and are put into our pink dresses.
I'm almost 36 now. I'm sitting here in my shitty apartment, with my two dogs who I love endlessly and who adore me, looking forward to waking in the morning and hitting the road for another week in my cove where I will sit at the table, drink and rant with dad, laugh with mom, and that is good.
I will wake up, run, look forward to nights drinking beer and playing hockey, buy tshirts that are hilarious and I'll wear under a blazer because hey, a blazer makes it classy. I will take time to do calls and fight for the industry I love, talk to fishermen, stop by the wharf every time I run because being there makes me feel happy and at home.
And I'll realize that not all of us meet our person at 18, 22, 28...sometimes it takes a bit longer - life lessons, trials, efforts, failures, redemptions, respect, understanding - for something to materialize that will be so big and so great that both sides appreciate it endlessly for the amount of shit it took to get there.
36 is coming.
I will spend that day playing hockey with a fun group of women, followed by a game with a hilarious group of guys to take my mind off it. I'll pack a bag and get ready to fly out to Halifax the next morning for two days of meetings with wonderful people and we will have conversations that are enlightening, knowledgeable and always just good.
I won't really acknowledge it. The 28th is just another day. Mom and dad will call, nan will call, the Facebook wall messages will flow in, but nothing will really change other than a day being ticked off and a number increasing by one.
Yet, something tells me that 36 might be a turning point. 2018 has laid the groundwork thus far.
We just have to be hopeful and love one another.
"Where'd you get them scars? How blue is your heart?
Is it sad enough to break? She said it's sad enough to break.
How long was your life?
Was it cold and strange like mine? Are you man enough to lay here?
She said I’m man enough, my baby, come see about me."