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the rest of my life
ruminations on my 25th year
by heather m. millen
10.29.03
general


In just a week, I will have my birthday. I love birthdays. I really, really do. I love my birthday, I love my family and friends’ birthdays. Hell, I even love your birthday! But mine is next, and I love it most. I think the idea of people having one special holiday to celebrate them and only them is brilliant. Forget what the Jehovah's Witnesses say! I want cake and candles and well wishes and my favorite martini.

And it’s coming just in time. I have to admit, I’ve been in a funk lately. Maybe it’s the quarter century blues. On November 5th, I will turn twenty-six. And while that sounds very young to many people, it doesn’t feel that way to me. I can’t believe how much of life I’ve already lived. Think about it — at least 1/3 of my life is lived. Done. Finis! No going back. And I wouldn’t if I could. The problem is… I’m ready to go forward. But where? I can’t seem to grasp what I’m in for in “the rest of my life.”

My friends will tell you that I believe I’m going to die young. I’m not trying to be morbid. It is not out of want, mind you, nor is there any particular cause that I’m aware of, I just can’t picture myself getting old. Maybe I just can’t fathom living all those years between now and then. Really, how is a girl to spend the time?

I feel as if I’ve been going through the same cycle for the last few years. And while it is a wonderful cycle, it’s a predictable one. The backdrop has changed but most everything else has stayed constant. My best friends are still my best friends and remain the most important people in my life. My job is still my job. I’m still the same person. My life now looks a lot like my life did four years ago. Only now I have a better tan. How many more years of this do I have?

Really, I’m not complaining. Overall, my life is just lovely. Some days it even borders along fantastic. But I truly have got it down to an art. Just sometimes it feels so… staid. I want to be inspired. Is that too much to ask?

Perhaps at this age, I’m used to things being structured. Your school years are intricately carved out into little portions of time. Each new experience is an easily decipherable chapter in the book of life. And it seems that every birthday up until now is building toward something. I now sit here and look out on the remaining terrain and wonder, “When is the next big thing?”

There are the tried and true steps that many take within their life journey: birth (check!), school (check!), more school (check!), job (check!). And then comes marriage (____), family (____), death (____). I’m sure there’s some other details in there, but that’s the gist. Many of my friends are moving onto that next clearly defined stage. Just this weekend I was back home for a wedding of two friends. It was wonderful to see them take that next step together. And while I don’t feel “left behind” by them or other friends approaching the inevitable “I Dos”, it is definitely strange to now continue walking down the same path that I’ve been traveling while the people I’ve come this far with diverge onto their next course of life.

That is not to say it’s unexpected, or unwanted, for that matter. Everyone knew I’d be the “last to go.” I've never thought of myself as a conventional person. But I am starting to realize that I do eventually want some of those conventional things and by just admitting that I want some form of that will never make me “conventional” per se. Even (way down the road) when I do get to that step of marriage, I’ll still have had my twists along the way. And that makes me happy.

John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” See, for me, I’m not making any plans. Sure, I’m a stickler when it comes to what time we’re meeting for drinks on Friday and I always know in advance just what outfit I’ll wear, but when it comes to the big stuff I’ve always sort of drifted through life enjoying the moment. I don’t have the rest of my life figured out. I’ve always presumed that it’ll work itself out and I’ll just enjoy the meantime.

Maybe this is the year to focus more on the things I know deep down that I so direly want. While I love all of the experiences I’ve had so far, I also know that I want to evolve even more as a person. I want new challenges and opportunities for greatness. And that’s not something that just happens. I feel that recently I've allowed myself to settle in certain aspects of my life. I don’t want to settle for anything less than everything anymore. And why should I?

If life is a journey and not a destination, maybe I've been stuck somewhere around Kansas. But I’m going to enter into this year not feeling rutted by a quarter century, but rather inspired by a fresh one to come. And I'm going to kick it off by once again enjoying “the moment.” Next Wednesday I’ll spend my birthday with friends and celebrate one of my selfishly favorite days of the year. And in the glow of 25 fabulous years, I’ll toast to 25 even more marvelous than the last.


ABOUT HEATHER M. MILLEN

Heather has a penchant for drama, both personally and professionally. She secretly wishes people spoke in song and wholeheartedly believes that everyone deserves a standing ovation now and again. She finds it appalling that people reserve champagne only for special occasions, when champagne is clearly best on a Tuesday, while riding the subway, accompanying a slice of kick-ass pizza.

more about heather m. millen

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COMMENTS

matt morin
10.29.03 @ 2:18a

Holy crap, I'm SUCH a different person at 32 than I was at 26.

My only advice is, don't wait for anything to happen - go make it happen. And don't get down if what you thought was going to happen doesn't.

If you had asked me at 26 what I thought my life would be like at 32, literally the only thing I would have guessed right was that I'd still be in San Francisco. Absolutely nothing else is how I'd hoped it'd be. But does that make me sad or disappointed? Not at all. Different doesn't equal worse.

So enjoy 26. And enjoy the fact that you have no idea what's coming next.

michael driscoll
10.29.03 @ 8:07a

"Getting older is made easier when you learn to forget how old you are." --Michael Driscoll, age ?

sandra thompson
10.29.03 @ 8:23a

My only advice from the distance of my 69 1/2 years is: fall in love as often as possible; eat as much lobster and chocolate as you can afford; take the next step even if it's into a dark room; and find something really big to devote at least a part of your time and energy to. When you have children I have two major rules for that: (1) never lie to a child and (2) never do for a child anything he or she can do for him/herself.
All of this is so tired and trite it can easily be dismissed as "Oh, that!" but most old people claim to regret little they actually did but lots of things they didn't do. Oh, yeah, and FLOSS!


nor mal
10.30.03 @ 11:22p

"...but most old people claim to regret little they actually did but lots of things they didn't do."

My whole philosophy is based on that. Well ... that and Forrest Gump's box of chocolates. But you see, Forrest's mom had it all wrong; you can know what you're going to get. Like if a piece has a big lump on it, that's probably a tasty nut .. and you're in luck. But even if it's a smoothie, that's still not proof-positive it's going to suck. So all you have to do is nibble a little off the corner. If, by chance, it turns out to be a nasty ol' orange-cream, you can just puke, slip it back in the box and try another. That way, if you get hit by a bus, you're not just flopping around in a puddle of gore with orange-cream on your breath, thinking, like, "there might have been another nut-fudgie in there .... why, oh why did I settle for the steenkin orange cream?".

Care for a chocolate?


tracey kelley
10.31.03 @ 11:50a

A USA Today poll asked for the "perfect age," if you could stop time and live forever in good health. Perfect ages were chosen by different age groups:

18-24 said 27.
25-29 said 31.
30-39 said 37.
40-49 said 40.
50-64 said 44.
65+ said 59.

Intersting how when you're younger, the perfect age is a couple of years older, and vice versa for older.

matt morin
10.31.03 @ 11:55a

Hmm...I'd say 29.

heather millen
10.31.03 @ 12:18p

I've always looked forward to 28... sounds like it would be a good year. But I guess that's yet to be determined. I just can't believe how eerily close it is all of a sudden.

matt morin
10.31.03 @ 12:53p

I liked my late 20's because I was old enough to be established, making a lot of money, in a big group of fun single friends, and generally experienced enough in life to know what I was doing more often than not. But I was still young enough that I could party all night and not feel it so much the next day.

Old enough to know what you're doing, but young enough to still do it.



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