Is that how that phrase goes? Oh, wait…
But seriously. I turned 30 during the pandemic this year, and even though there was chaos all around, nothing was open, and I spent 90% of it by myself, it was probably the best birthday on record at least for me.
About 6 months before my birthday, back in September of 2019, I made a lot of life changes. Before that, I spent a lot of time feeling anxious and doubting myself as a mom, and I couldn’t justify not going to therapy anymore - you know, since I’m a therapist and everything. In the same week last year, I made the decision to join a brand new gym, starting to seriously prioritize my physical health and also my relationship with my body. I also started therapy and medications, which contributed to a huge (like Donald Trump yuuuugggeeeee) mental overhaul for me in the best, most positive of ways.
Those changes led to a bunch of other changes, too. For one, I decided to stop drinking alcohol. It was something that started by not wanting to negatively affect my medications along with some other things that I’ll save for another post or podcast episode. But quitting drinking required me to re-evaluate my relationship with other things, too, like social events, weekends, handling unstructured time, distress, etc. A lot of changes were taking place and I was feeling like a new person - in a good but really strange and bizarre way.
Couple all of this self-improvement with the pandemic and I turned into a full blown introvert. Truth be told, I think I was always an introvert but I spent a lot of time exerting my energy into outside sources and therefore running myself into the ground. I guess you could say I’m an extroverted introvert. A lot of people would assume, from superficial interactions with me, that I’m pretty extroverted because I am loud, assertive, decisive, etc. But after being forced to quarantine with my family and pretty much the rest of Wisconsin - I realized it felt pretty damn good to slow down, focus on myself and my family, and not have to constantly be running around pleasing and interacting with other people.
This made me think a lot. Was I just avoiding the work that comes with having to plan and commit to things? I really didn’t think so. I talked to my therapist often about how “no” is a complete sentence, and she introduced me to the concept of “if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no”. That’s been a big one for me. My therapist encouraged me in this still somewhat vulnerable time of me really working on myself and making so many changes to make sure I’m prioritizing what feels good, what makes sense for me and my family, and that it was okay (and probably good) that my activities were different than they were before.
So as my 30th birthday approached, I started to consider what my ideal birthday would be. In the past, I probably would have had a huge party with lots of friends at a local restaurant. I’ve had tons of friends in the past throw me the most amazing parties, complete with a surprise get together at a bar after work, tons of gift wrapped wine, and more. I’m so, so grateful for those things and I had friends offer it to me this year, too. But the truth of the matter was that those things just didn’t make me feel good anymore. And I was in the business now of making feeling good my full time job.
What would make me feel good on my birthday? I literally wrote a list of all the things that make me feel great. Family time. Walks with the dogs. An awesome work out. A trip to the grocery store. Cooking a new recipe. Tea. Time by myself. Meditating. Downtown Oconomowoc. These are the everyday things in my life now (well, for the most part) and that's what I wanted on my birthday. I told my husband I basically wanted A Day in the Life of Jenna, cranked all the way up.
I woke up on my 30th birthday. After going to my favorite gym, Burn Boot Camp, and getting my much awaited (not) birthday burpees, I went downtown super early and sat by the lake in my favorite place of all time - downtown Oconomowoc, which is a beautiful, quaint little town surrounded by lakes. I grabbed my headphones and my backpack. I set up on the dock by a lake and meditated by the water. I journaled my gratitude for a while, watching boats come and go. When I was done, I walked to my favorite coffee/tea shop and got THREE different kinds of tea - that's how I get wild these days. I walked to another location by the water and meditated again. I journaled some more. Got up and walked some more, meditated some more, breathed some more.
AND I HAD THE BEST FREAKING TIME. IT WAS THE BEST DAY EVER.
I stopped by one of our favorite French bistros on the way home and got breakfast treats for all of us including the dogs. When I got home, we spent time together - the 5 of us, and we went for a walk together. We went to the grocery store as a family and cooked a new recipe together. I sipped my teas and felt so much love and contentment in my heart. I honestly looked forward to the rest of the year because it felt like I was finally on track in my life - 30 years into it.
I cannot tell you how many people laughed at me and told me I was lame, or that I “had” to do something different. But I never wanted to! I was perfectly content with that birthday and would not have changed a thing.
My birthday, the pandemic, and everything else just kind of cultivated into this huge realization for me that it’s okay to be the way that I am. It’s okay to be introverted, it’s okay to just do whatever feels good and as long as you’re making decisions that make you feel good, then you really can’t go wrong. It feels good every day to be prioritizing my needs and the needs of my family. I’m a homebody and a full blown introvert and IDGAF.
Some people in my life find it a little strange. When we go out on date day, people think it’s weird that I don’t want to go out and bar hop with Tate or that I start my day on Saturdays by waking up early and meditating when I could sleep in.
But that’s okay. Because it works for me, it makes me feel good, and I hope you all get to do whatever makes you feel good, too. If you've ever felt a little stuck because you're not quite an extravert but not quite an introvert - don't worry, I feel you, I'm right there, too. But it's okay to be still figuring it out, even 30, 40, 50+ years later. That's what this is all about, right?
Here’s to making 30 the best year yet. Cheers (with La Croix or tea, plz).
Xo - Jenna