The Face of 37 and How I Got Here.

I turned 37 today. “Old” to some, but I couldn’t feel more excited and energized. It took a long time getting here. Well, 37 years to be exact.

In 1975, I was born in Enid, Oklahoma, which is a small town northwest of Oklahoma City. Shortly after my brother was born, we (my mother, father and brother) packed up and moved to Oklahoma City.

I remember the simplicity of life then. Getting dirty in the backyard, playing with dolls and even battling with my brother’s GI Joe soliders. Tetherball at recess, birthday parties, girl scouts, the list goes on and on. Those memories are full of confidence, security and warmth.

In the wink of an eye, confidence and security was lost. My mother took us kids and left my father. I was 8, my brother 5. Life was far from simple from that moment on.

Changing schools was the first of many heartbreaking changes I faced after the divorce. Having only one parent with us full-time, my brother and I were often left alone. Being the oldest, I was the one “in charge”, which no doubt attributes to the leadership skills I possess today, but no doubt attributes to the anxiety I suffered for years. (and still pops its ugly head from time to time) Having such huge responsibilities as young as 11 was extremely overwhelming, scary and confusing. To add to the struggle, we were also poor and almost never went to the doctor or dentist. We moved quite often, roughly 6 times over a 9 year span.

After high school, I moved out of the house rather quickly. I found a good job at a big photo processing company (ever heard of Glamour Shots or Party Pics?) and quickly promoted my way to “Photo Analyzer”. I tried attending college while working, but soon gave up the fight and dropped out. My personal life was a mess. I partied every chance I had, later joined a band, which lead to even more partying. I also took in my teenage brother when I was just 19, which I had no business doing and no doubt added more instability to his life.

I had no direction. No goals. No peace. I never wanted to marry or have children. I viewed marriage and family as a hurtful, destructive entity that I wanted no part of.

Then I met my husband.

Turns out, playing in a band had its perks. I met Ryan, who was also in a local band. Although we played shows together off and on for 3 years or so, it wasn’t until 1997 that we officially dated. For the first time in my life, I actually wanted marriage AND a family. I no longer felt lost in the world. It was the beginning of a new life full of positive love, healthy surroundings and a purpose. Strangely enough, it was uncomfortable at first.

It was also uncomfortable for a few of my family members, who chose to distance themselves from me shortly after my first son was born. In hindsight, I believe it was for the best, as it protected my family from future grief, but it still hurt. Hard. It did, however, make me appreciate those who have always loved and supported me, through the ups and downs.

Being married to Ryan was and has been an exhilarating ride. His creative mind works so differently than my analytical one, which can be  tough to understand at times, but I can’t imagine it any other way. He has taught me so many things – how to be creative, that it’s okay to dream big and that all things are possible with a ton of hard work. Cliche I know, but being such a pessimist before, I had no idea how to process this. I am grateful for his inspiration.

In our almost 14 years of marriage, we have been poor, created various business ventures, performed children’s shows all around Oklahoma, filmed a children’s show pilot, traveled the country and created the most amazing two boys on Earth. Our continued support of one another’s ideas and dreams is the reason I have a full-time job I love and why my husband keeps creating brilliant work. (that brings in amazing awards!)

At 37, I couldn’t feel more confident and secure with myself and my life. I worry a whole lot less about what others think of me, which is  extremely liberating. I like what I like because I like it, not because I have to keep up a “cool” factor. I’m just me. I don’t need a title.

One of the best lessons I have learned in my 37 years of living is that life doesn’t have be complicated. Most of the problems we endure are those we created in the first place. Not always, but more times than not.

Also, it is okay to screw up. It is what we choose to do after the failure that truly matters. Our true character is always revealed in the aftermath. Ultimately, everyone just wants love and kindness in their lives, and the more you hand it out, the more you receive it back. It isn’t difficult to do, but it can be so hard to learn.

I have no idea what the next 37 years and beyond will bring, but I couldn’t be more thrilled for the journey. Here’s to 37.