Anyone else out there hooked on the show “This Is Us“? (As if any of us need another show to be addicted to… am I right?) It’s about three siblings (twins and an adopted brother) who were born on the same day 36 years ago. The show kicked off with all three of them facing pivotal realizations on their birthday about being 36 and where they are at in life and that they need to start getting serious about the things that are important to them. Each one is at a unique stage in life, but they are all faced with the same reality: NOW is their time.
Not when they get to it. Not tomorrow. But RIGHT. NOW.
My husband and I are also both 36. And boy, can we ever relate to that sentiment. Can you?
Not everyone experiences this, and not everyone gets hit squarely in the jaw by this revelation, specifically being 36. But I have seen a pattern and a shift among my mama friends who are close to my age, one that is exciting, grounding and – quite honestly – relieving.
My 20’s and even my early 30’s were a time of comparison (definitely) and competition (but typically, unintentionally). I don’t think anyone means for this to happen, but it’s common. Twenty-somethings are all figuring out their place in life, making the most important decisions they will ever make, getting married, starting their families, buying homes – or none of the above. And social media has amplified our feelings of inadequacy as we scroll through everyone else’s highlight reels and compare them to our reality.
But something happened when I turned 35. My insecurities shrunk (although many still linger), my mortality started to sink in (I know… how morbid), and my desire to make a difference suddenly started to take shape into something tangible I could offer to the world. But more importantly, I wanted to leave a lasting legacy for my girls that would inspire them to do great things.
Maybe this hit home because my mom was 35 when she had me; and when I turned 35, we traveled to Iceland together to bury her mother in her hometown. My daughters loved my Amma, and she was my last living grandparent and the only one to meet my youngest. She died at age 91, two months after she fell and broke a hip, but every day leading up to that she was independent and capable, and losing that was hard on her. I couldn’t help but appreciate her legacy and her story, and my own mom’s life as I learned so much more about her on that journey. I thought long and hard about what generations after me will be like and what I can do to affect that. And suddenly, at the age of 35, urgency sunk in, but instead of being scared I became inspired.
I stopped seeing other moms as competitors and instead started seeing them as allies fighting the same battles: doing what we can to be our best selves, to love our families well, juggling jobs outside the home or being SAHMs, fighting back tears as we watched our children grow before our eyes, learning to accept our differences instead of judging each other for them. There is no right way or better way. But there is a limit to the time we have, and dang it, we can’t ask anyone one else to build our legacies. We had best learn to support one other through it.
So what is it about 36? To me, it’s still being young but having something super valuable to offer the world. It’s realizing that you hold more power than you know. It’s knowing that it’s never too late to start. It’s appreciating the role your health plays in the quality of your life, for the rest of your life. It’s not letting those precious moments with your children slip through the cracks for anything. It’s seeing far enough ahead that all the things you used to put off are now suddenly SUPER important. It’s knowing your limits and setting your boundaries even when it comes at a cost. It’s saying yes to the right things and no to the wrong ones. It’s knowing your value and loving yourself no matter what anyone else has ever said or done to make you feel otherwise. And it’s giving other mamas the space to be themselves and loving and encouraging them through it, too.
I love 36. And I hope that whatever age you are, you love it, too.