Reflections Upon Turning 35

Shortly before my 30th birthday, I received an email from someone I grew up with. We weren’t close, but  I knew him my entire childhood. That’s how things work in a small town. Everyone knows everyone, and Ben was one of those kids who was in the “blue” reading group with me through elementary school and still right there next to me in higher math classes in high school. He was always around and we were friendly if not friends.

Nevertheless, the email caught me off guard. Here is someone I hadn’t seen or heard from since high school graduation when I was seventeen, nearly half a lifetime earlier. He had missed our ten year reunion, he said, and didn’t much care, but he wondered about me. His email said that he thought often of how I was doing and was sure that I had left our small town and created an amazing life, found success. After all, he reminded me, the class had voted me Most Likely to Succeed.

I squirmed reading that email. And I never wrote back.

I hadn’t made it to the ten year reunion either because I was eight weeks pregnant with my son. Too sick to do much of anything other than survive, I couldn’t often leave the house and certainly couldn’t travel from my home in Maryland to my hometown in Pennsylvania.

I didn’t know what to say to him.

Hi Ben, great to hear from you! Today I folded laundry and later I’m going to change some diapers. If all goes well, I’ll be able to coordinate my kids’ afternoon naps today. Now THAT would be a success!

Maybe I could tell him that I had married a successful man?

Ben! What a surprise!. Life is fantastic. I’m at home full time, cleaning spit up off of couch cushions and trying to get cat vomit out of the carpet, but my husband calls me every day at lunch in between his meetings on Capitol Hill and at the State Department.

Nothing seemed to live up to this long email that arrived out of nowhere, setting up expectations that I seemed to have missed, letting me know that somewhere out there, I had let people down, people whose existence I had all but forgotten.

In the years following that email I have reinvented my life in almost every way. When my kids were four and two, I began writing this blog. Shortly after, I began working in social media marketing. I worked out a balance between walking my kids to and from the school bus every day and working for clients the other seven hours of the day. We moved to a bigger house. The lunchtime calls from my husband are now also scheduled around my meetings.

And sometimes I think about Ben and that email. Should I find him? Track down his email address? Maybe tell him he was right and it just took me some time to get my thoughts together but hey, now I’m running a business and writing a book and succeeding just like he imagined.

But the truth is that everything that happened between that angst-causing 30th birthday and turning 35 this week that is truly important, happened in connection to those two children who were with me five years ago and who have blessed my life every day since.  

Just as I spent the years before it complicating my life with goals, I have spent the last year simplifying, trying to get back to those joyful moments that filled my time in between diaper changes and loads of laundry.

Finally finding that balance – finally making the time to appreciate my family – now that would be succeeding.

Leave a Reply


  • Here’s my guess! Ben felt the same, in a different way, which is why he wrote. Maybe he wasn’t the top pick at the firm like he thought, or he didn’t somehow ‘move ahead’ like everyone felt he would.

    30-35 is time spent feeling like you need to move forward and DO STUFF, even when you are trying to raise little ones.

    Then you get to 40 and you’re like, “Okay, so we’re all alive and our kids don’t eat dog poop (most of the time) and we cuddle a lot and I’m not going to live in Rome and that’s fine, Phineas and Ferb is FUNNY.”

    30-35 asks a lot of questions that 40-45 will (try really hard to) answer.

    I promise. Even though I’m still just 25.

  • We both know that the real reason is that you didn’t know ME yet at 30. Silly girl, giving credit to the kids.

  • My first college roommate gave me great advice; “Live at your own pace.” Growing up, we feel so much pressure to go straight to college and graduate on time and land a sweet job right away, but that’s not always how life works. In fact, that’s rarely how life works. When we stop worrying about what is expected of us, and what others think about us, we can finally focus on what we want for ourselves. Soon after that everything falls into place. =)

    • What a great quote! I had my Master’s degree by the time I was 22 and was married by 23. My life felt fast-tracked for a long time and it has taken me some time to really slow down and settle in. I’m still working on that part.

  • I love the last line of this post. Family truly is what it is all about, isn’t it? xo

  • So funny… we have a similar, though differently paced path. I, too, skipped my 10 year reunion, but it was because I had just left tv, was just dating Jeff – at 29, I was’t married and didn’t know what I was going to do for work. I felt entirely lost and couldn’t have even answered the question, ‘so what are you doing now?’…. and yet in the lat 10 years, all of that has changed. I’m on the verge of turning 40 and have found my footing – at least most of the time. I never feel balanced, but I know that is ok. It works. I’m doing something I love and my family knows they are a my priority. And one of these days, my small people, like yours, will look back and know we DID BOTH: we were present for families we loved AND we followed our dreams. I think that is worth celebrating. Hope 35 and beyond our fabulous for you.

    • Thank you, Danielle! And I’m amazed at how the lack of balance can all be perception. I asked my kids if they would like me to work a little less (because I would like to work a little less) and they both said no, not really. It was an eye-opening moment. They are happy, content little loves who definitely enjoy their time with mom but are happy that I work as well.

  • I find that, depending on the moment that I am in, my definition of succeeding changes as well as my willingness to embrace it. Sounds like you are in a great place, too – Kudos! And, Happy Birthday!

  • I can relate to that feeling you had when reading his email and also to the feeling you have now of wanting to write back. As a previous commenter said, he was probably feeling the same way. Also, he was probably trying to hit on you. Happy 35th and just wait til 40! That’s when the fun begins, after your body starts doing weird stuff. it’s a lot of fun. I’ve vlogged about it so give me a holla in 5 years. ; )

  • I love what Danielle said–our families will know we did both…and might I add with passion. You’ve got so much to be proud of. Plus, you don’t look a day over 29!