Updated: Nov 18
Last week, I turned 29. What an interesting age. The beginning of the end of an era. With the beginning of a new one just around the corner. Era: a long and distinct period of history with a particular feature or characteristic. My 20s. Certainly distinct. Certainly characteristic.
Someone said to me recently, in hearing of my approaching birthday, “Ooo 29 - get it all out now! You can legally get away with anything in your 20s, but once you’re 30, that’s it!” Humorous as that may be, there’s an interesting sentiment behind it. I think it’s the reason why 30 hit so many of my friends so hard this year, and it’s why getting closer to those dreaded digits often sends me into a tailspin of anxiety. There’s an air of expectation with 30. A guise of adulthood. Of knowing. Of having. Of doing.
The beginning of one’s twenties is filled with energy and mystery and abandon (and honestly, a bit of naïveté). A feeling of having the whole world at your fingertips, but an unknown of what that world actually is. As the decade progresses, that sense of freedom is lost, and a feeling of pressure is gained. “Reality” hits. When will I do this? How will I do that? Am I doing this right? Am I ever going to make that happen? We begin to become afraid and we also become oh so judgmental of our very own selves. We feel that infamous clock ticking (God knows where) and a building pressure to “have it all figured out” - whatever that even means. That pressure starts to trickle down and instead of feeling it on our actual 30th birthday (or on any of the "milestone" birthdays for that matter), we start to feel it sooner and sooner.
No matter what we think our 30s (or 40s or 50s or 60s) should look like, if Rona has taught us anything, it’s that we have little to no control…over anything. Things can change (and will change) on a dime, and all we can do is go with it. There can be no “shoulds” because there are no “definites.” Only what already is. So, let’s release the pressure, no?
My good friend TJ likes to ask people, as they enter a new year of life, “What are you leaving behind?” When he first asked me at my party last year, I was taken aback. Hmmm…it’s not often I think about what I no longer want in my life. Usually my thoughts are full of what I do want. Things I have, things I hope for…not what I don’t. But what an interesting concept it is to look back on all you’ve learned, all you’ve grown through, and let it go. Leave it behind. Imagine if we were actually successful in doing that - how wonderful it would feel and how beautiful life would be.
I believe my answer last year had something to do with fear. Something about leaving behind any uncertainty or weakness, and always fighting for myself most of all. Standing up for who I am, what I want, and what I deserve - *no*matter*what*. Letting go of all the crap and only letting the good in. (Can you tell 27 was a beast of a year? *wink*)
And truth be told…I can firmly say I accomplished that in 28. Somehow and some way. I let it all go and I stood up for myself, consistently. Because of that work and that truth, I am, in many ways, currently the strongest version of myself I have ever known, and I am damn proud of myself for that. I finally let go of the second-guessing and a good portion of my desire to please (although that is still quite a difficult one for me).
So, at this year's birthday get-together, when TJ asked me again what I was leaving behind, I was faced with creating a new challenge for myself. What is it I no longer need in my life? What is that new, freshly-dead layer of skin that has formed around my 28-year-old self that I can now exfoliate and shed off my person as I step into this new year? I thought, and I reflected. What a crazy year it’s been (which is definitely an understatement). What a defining one. One of serious, life-changing ups and downs, uncertainty, heartache, and stress. One of changes and shifts, but also of stillness and stagnancy. Other than the obvious of what I would like to leave behind, but can’t just yet…what am I actually going to leave behind?
It only took me a few breaths to find my answer: expectations. I don’t need 'em and I don’t want 'em. Expectations the world has of me, sure, but most importantly, the expectations I have of myself. The “shoulds” I hear and think so much about. Therefore, I have decided to commit myself to letting go of what I think is the “right path” or the “right choice,” and just do and go where my heart (and God) leads me. I’m going to embrace what I am given in this moment and sit comfortable in the not knowing - trusting that what is meant to be will truly be. For releasing control is actually the only thing I have control over. Lesson learned (thanks Rona).
I love celebrating my birthday with friends and family every year. It usually involves a bar with music, dancing, craft cocktails, and dressing up for the occasion. All things I thoroughly enjoy. But, for obvious reasons, the party had to look a little bit different this year. So, I shifted gears - finding a centralized, outdoor space where we could spread out and socially distance, but still enjoy everyone’s company. I made a few trips to Party City prior, stocking up on fun, matching (duh) birthday essentials, and my boyfriend and I gathered all the wine, Whole Foods snacks, and craft cupcakes (Molly's Cupcakes are to die) we could carry. It may not have looked like my “typical” celebration - but it was indeed perfect. Being with my loved ones (and wearing a tiara) was all I really needed in order to celebrate.
The reflective introvert in me, however, really appreciates her alone time as well - especially surrounding life events, like birthdays. Dating back to my senior year in college, every year on the actual day of my birth, I like to spend the daytime with myself. I’ll journal, pray, meditate, spend time outside, live in the moment, and do whatever my newly 20-something-year-old heart desires. It’s a great way to feel truly present, honor everything the previous year was, and welcome everything the next year will be.
This year, the universe sent me the most perfect day. It was a high-60s, full sunshine, light breeze kind of Thursday, with nothing but time on my hands. I didn’t sleep well the night before, but still woke up feeling refreshed and invigorated. I spent some time in the morning responding to all the birthday love and then put on my cheeriest comfy clothes and ventured out for some free Starbucks and my favorite avocado toast (Double Dutch Espresso). After, I wandered to one of my (many) favorite parts in Central Park (the Great Hill - also the location of my birthday celebration a few days prior), unfolded my beach towel, and journaled in the shade. I thought back on everything 28 held for me - realizing the pandemic had covered more than half of that time (insane to think about). Then, I prayed. My heart was full of gratitude and surrender.
I eventually transitioned into the sunshine where I received a few phone calls before just laying down and basking in true serenity. In this tranquility, I found myself wanting to meditate. Meditating helps me so much in my life and I know this, but I still don’t do it on the reg. Why is it that we often hold ourselves back from the things we know will make us feel better?
I put in my headphones and pulled up YouTube, where I searched for my favorite leader of meditations - Deepak Chopra. He may not be for everyone, but I love the way he typically structures his meditations: with a theme, a consideration, a mantra, and music. (He has an app in association with Oprah, which is fabulous and also mostly requires a subscription, but you can find a lot of his clips on YouTube for free!) I browsed and found one I hadn’t done before - a 10 Minute Meditation for Inner Peace. Sounds great! It was great. And just what I needed. It was more simple than his typical style - no music, just him speaking concepts into the ether, accompanied by breath, and guiding me into being.
Within the first few minutes of the mediation, Deepak says, “No experience is graspable. Experience is like breath. To hold on is to suffocate. To let go is freedom.” Breath. Yes. Freedom. Letting go. Experience. Expectations. I love that imagery. We literally can’t hold on or else we will suffocate. It seems it’s proving to be life’s theme: “what do you want to leave behind?” Those words ever-ringing in my ear.
He goes on to guide me past the common personal inquiries of “who I am” and “what I am,” questioning their derivatives, and leading me into what it means to just be. Navigating through the waters of true desire and purpose, while practicing gratitude, Deepak aims to deconstruct the nature of “who we are” by repeating and reflecting on the following statements: “I am Rachael Scarr,” “I am Rachael,” and then simply, “I am.” By thinking on the experiences and memories associated with your form, your name, and who you think you are, you become hyperaware of your desire to attach and hold onto, you dismantle the feeling of expected associations, and you become sensitive towards awareness - being. “Exist as existence...Being aware of being aware - the source of all thought…Awareness has no shape, but it gives rise to experiences of shape and color and form.” I know…it’s incredibly heady - but I secretly (or I guess not so secretly) live for this stuff. It makes me feel human! Joy and deep, pensive thought - how else should we spend the beginning of another revolution around the sun?
I end the meditation feeling elevated, present, and appreciative. My phone was dying as I left the park, so I put it on airplane mode and felt alive. No distractions. Just awareness. No associations. Just being.
I wanted to go for a bike ride on this beautiful, God-given day and was originally planning on circling around Central Park (my typical route), but the friendly barista at the newly-constructed Starbucks near my apartment where I had received my birthday beverage that morning, upon hearing of my birth day plans, reminded me of the beautiful view riding along the Hudson provided. I realized I hadn’t ridden along the river in quite some time, so I shifted gears post-meditation and sauntered over to Riverside on a cloud. I rented a CitiBike and pedaled south along the quiet, residential street until I could crossover where Boat Basin used to be (RIP) onto the river-side bike path. My ride felt like heaven. The freedom of being on wheels, without a timeline (or a phone), wind in my hair, sunshine on my face, the city to my left and the river to the my right, the world (once more) at my fingertips, pressure finally lifted, and happiness in my heart. I will hold those 45 minutes of awareness close to me for a very long while.
As my bike rental period was coming to an end, I realized I had worked up quite an appetite and would need something to hold me over until my romantic dinner with Alex scheduled for later in the evening. (We went to JoJo on the UES, by the way, and it was absolutely superb. Our first indoor dining experience in NYC post-start-of-the-pandemic, and we felt incredibly safe and taken care of. Also, the food and beverage was delish!) It appeared now that I was in the West Village (as the streets started to lose their numbers), and as I glanced to my right I saw an establishment fit with outdoor seating. The idea of drifting there to conclude my sensational stretch of solitude sounded scrumptious. Ironically, the place was called Drift In. (And I highly recommend trying their fabulous frosé if you're ever in the area.) But first, to dock my bike.
I turned off airplane mode so my phone could locate me once more and point me in the direction of a docking station. I followed the map as it led me a few blocks east and into a pocket of the city I had never seen before. One of my absolute favorite things about this beaut of a city is that no matter how long you live here or venture here, you will always be discovering new things in her midst. I pull up to the station to see what takes me a second to realize is an art installation (another reason why I love New York). Each individual dock is wrapped in colorful tape, creating a rainbow in ascension. As I get closer, I discover that each dock is also subsequently graced with its own word. Words of encouragement, introspection, and inspiration. I meandered all the way down to the purple-taped docks at the end (as it’s clearly the best color on the planet), and found myself an open dock to lay my bike to rest before carrying on with my night. The phrase that happened to be written on my chosen dock? Be.
Kismet at its finest.
I wrote this letter to myself on my birthday, and then published it to IG. It really allowed me to exercise self-love and reflect on the strong woman that I already am.
It did wonders for my psyche.
I recommend writing yourself a love letter every now and then…and maybe even publishing it *wink*
It's good to remind ourselves of how far we've come.
Here’s lookin’ at you, 29 👀
Here’s to the woman who’s passionate and follows her dreams relentlessly. Here’s the woman who gives 110% no matter the reward. Here’s to the woman who’s been through a lot, but always comes out on the other side. Here’s to the woman who trusts in God fiercely. Here’s to the woman who always chooses kindness and surrounds herself with likeminded people. Here’s to the woman who’s always seeking. Here’s to the woman who forgives herself and knows how to find her strength. Here’s to the woman who lives and loves fully at all times. Here’s to woman you are and the one you are becoming. In case I don’t tell you enough, I am proud of you 💕
I see you, crazy year of uncertainty and transition. I see you, last year before my 30s. I see you, and you don’t scare me. Bring it on 🥂