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Happy Birthday {to me}

Today is my 29th birthday. The last year in my twenties. Only 365 days away from turning 30.

Honestly, I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. But I might be a little bit freaked out by it.

When I met one of my friends for coffee the other night, she told me that your thirties are so much better than your twenties. God, I hope she’s right.

When I look back, I see that my twenties have been emotional and volatile, filled with so many different life altering events.

I bounced in and out of different colleges and majors, not knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up. I lost my job, and followed my then-boyfriend to school in Wisconsin where I discovered my true passion during a summer photography course. I made new friends and grew apart from old ones. My grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer, which gave me the best reason in the world to quit smoking. I broke up with the boyfriend I moved away to be with, and moved back home to Minnesota to study photography. I started working for Apple where I met my husband {who was my boss at the time… wink, wink}. I married my husband, bought a house and gave birth to our first daughter all in a matter of six months. I took a leap of faith and made my dreams a reality when I started my own business. And most recently I gave birth to our second daughter, June. {Whew}

All of these events woven together have made me who I am today, and I like to think that’s a good thing.

But one thing that’s been weighing on my mind lately is how unsatisfied I am with my life. It’s not that I’m truly unhappy or depressed. I’m over-the-moon happy with my life. I’m married to my best friend, I have two incredibly beautiful little girls, and my business is finally starting to fall into a happy place for me.

But there are still little things that are nagging me and that I can’t seem to let go. Losing those friendships for example. It’s taken me a long time for certain pains to dull and for me to realize that I can’t change the past. And yes, there are still days that I fall into a dark place, and I do wish I could change the past.

Because of those things, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I want this decade of my life to end, and how I want to address the looming hurdle of 30 that’s standing in front of me. What changes can I make so that I’m not so unsatisfied going forward? If I could go back and change the past, what would I have done differently? And how can I change my life so that I don’t have to ask those questions in the future?

I recently ordered a copy of The Happiness Project on a whim. I didn’t know anything about it except what I had read in the synopses on Barnes & Noble.

The day after the book showed up on my doorstep, I sat down on the couch during a rare moment of quiet to start reading. I read through the “Note To The Reader” and was skeptical at best, but I continued. I figured that I could always put it down and start reading my copy of Heaven is Here instead. But three pages in I started crying. All I could think, as I digested the words in front of me was, “this book was written for me”. It’s as though the author had a secret window into my life, knew how I was feeling on a daily basis, and was ready to tell me how I could change my life so that those questions I have don’t loom in front of me anymore.

If you haven’t heard of the book before, it’s written by a woman who is sitting on the bus one morning and suddenly realizes that she’s in danger of wasting her life. When she asks herself what she really wants out of her life, her answer is “I want to be happy.” She too has so many wonderful things in her life to be happy about but yet she finds small things that cause her discontent and disbelief that this is really her life. So she starts mapping out twelve areas of her life that she can work on {one for each month of the year}, and creates individual goals within each of those topics to help her along the way.

I immediately started thinking about my own Happiness Project, and I asked myself two questions: what am I unhappy about, and what goals can I set to attain that will change those feelings of unhappiness?

Five things automatically jumped out at me: friendship, lack of creative outlets, money, motherhood, and love. Sure there are other things, but those are my big five. So I’ve decided that those will be the ones that I’ll focus on first. I may add additional “topics” as my year goes on, or I may just stick with what I have. There are no rules to this, right? This is about what will make me a happier person.

When I think about it, I immediately come up with a list of “I Can’ts” – I can’t force people to spend time with me or like me, I can’t give my husband a raise or wipe out all of our debt, and I can’t become a better mother overnight. But then I started thinking about three things for each topic that I can do.

 

Friendship

I can be the one to reach out and initiate some girls time instead of waiting for my friends to ask me.

I can work on developing new friendships instead of mourning the loss of old ones.

I can show {and tell} my friends how much they mean to me

Money

I can set a household budget and stick to it.

I can set aside a larger amount for our savings account each paycheck.

I can stop buying things that I can’t pay cash for.

Motherhood

I can say yes more often.

I can spend more time playing instead of working.

I can set aside a little “me” time each day to recharge my batteries.

Creative Outlets

I can blog more for myself.

I can pick up my camera and photograph my life more often.

I can find a craft that I really enjoy creating.

Love

I can stop shutting my husband out, and talk more when I’m upset.

I can do one little thing each day to show my husband how much he means to me.

I can set aside one day each week for “us” time.

 

Even as I write this post, I can think of even more individual goals for each topic and how to embellish upon each one. One of the tasks I need to complete is really narrowing my list down to focus on the most important items and determine how to best give my energy to them each day.

So now that I’ve laid the framework for my project how do I hold myself accountable?

Easy. I can review my list and my goals each day, and I can continue to share my progress and my challenges here.

It’s going to be a challenge and I don’t deny that. I expect to fail at some things, but I hope that I learn from those failures, because I truly believe that making these changes will make me a better {and happier} person.

Happy 29th Birthday, to me.

Here’s toasting myself to an even better year than the last, and {hopefully} a lifetime of happiness.

 

 

 
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Alyssa - April 19, 2012 - 12:50 pm

Happy Birthday Mary! I saw that book at Patina and wondered what it was like. It sounds like you have some great inspiration. We could all stand to work at being happier. :)

Elle - April 19, 2012 - 10:55 am

Happy birthday! I so admire your honesty and introspection – what a great list. And hey – i’ve been meaning to ask for a while but your post prompted me – wanna grab coffee and/or have a playdate sometime?

Kelly - April 19, 2012 - 10:36 am

You are so awesome, Mary! Your “I can’s” are inspiring and most are things I struggle with myself- good luck!

Linda - April 19, 2012 - 8:45 am

Happy 29th Birthday! Hope this year is filled with many blessings for you! Btw, so far 29 has been pretty good, I feel like I’m getting more & more comfortable in my own skin & learning how to make decisions based on what I’m passionate about, while also appreciating how precious time is. I’m sure you’ll love 29 too!

Jacky {The Sweetest Petunia} - April 19, 2012 - 8:27 am

I love these “I can” things you’ve shared! :) I can especially relate to the husband ones.

Happy birthday, Mary, I hope it’s a lovely one!

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