33. How did that happen? When did I go from being a confused, maybe even lost, cute chick in my mid-20's? I don't feel any older. I actually don't even look any older (or at least I tell myself that as I smooth on the anti-aging moisturizer.) I took a long walk in Riverside Park today and thought about my past birthdays, which very often have turned out to be pivotal moments in my life.
My first birthday after college I was promoted to a position at work that would set me off on 5 fantastic years in theatre management. Another birthday I had my passport stolen in South Africa and learned about the tremendous kindness of strangers, while simultaneously falling in love with the country and culture as a result of what I thought initially was a horrible tragedy and later turned out to be a blessing. In South Africa, I learned painfully that we are never alone in this world, that someone, somewhere is always willing to lend a hand if we have the humility and grace to ask for help sincerely and honestly. I've fallen in love on my birthday, and I've also had my heart broken on my birthday, none of which would I ever take back. I went snorkeling for the first time on my 30th birthday and so began my gradual letting go of the fear of water. (This is still a work-in-progress.)
So today, what is the pivotal moment that happened? Today, I learned to trust my instincts. I realized that maybe I learned to temper my wide-eyed, blinder-clad idealism with a bit of reality. I learned to see people and situations for what they really are and not simply for what people told me they were. I began to connect dots from my past to my potential future. I learned that while my days past were wonderful, my future days will be better and happier still. I learned to hear and acknowledge what was not being said, as clearly as I am able to discern what is being said.
Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, gave a talk at TED this year that has had my mind spinning for weeks. She is funny, likable, and brutally honest, even at her own expense. She talked about success, and the concern and fear of many, maybe even of most, people who achieve success. "How will I ever top this?" "Is my greatest work done?" "Is this the very best I will ever be?" And her answer - maybe.
However, she counsels, keep showing up. Every day, keep looking forward, appreciating what we have and had, and recognizing that always within us there is the potential to achieve and be more tomorrow than we are today. Much of our creativity and inspiration comes from an other-worldly source that we do not control, but can only revel in and listen to. Pay attention. Or, as Ann Curry told me via Twitter "Inspiration often comes without warning." And if that is the case, and I believe firmly that it is, then why not think that it only gets better from here? We have no reason to believe otherwise because much of it is likely out of our hands.
The photo above is of Elizabeth Gilbert and can be found at: http://www.ted.com/index.php/speakers/elizabeth_gilbert.html