I hope I die before I get old (a ode to my birthday)



Today is my birthday. I am now officially 37 years old.

The significance of my birthday has changed a lot throughout my life. When I was younger, my birthday was a joyful excuse to eat cake for breakfast and wear my most pretty dress and have a party at McDonalds or the roller rink and open piles of presents, things like board games and pajamas from really annoying relatives. Birthdays were about being celebrated by friends and, for a fleeting moment, feeling popular.

But somehow, since I left my twenties and careened into my thirties, birthdays became increasingly traumatic. Because I thought I'd have accomplished a lot more by this point. When I was fifteen, I confidently crowed that by the time I reached thirty I'd be a famous classical flutist. And possibly have published my first (or third) book. And own my own equestrian center with horses grazing peacefully on my property. Oh, and I'd be completely recovered from my eating disorder and have fantastic relationships with my family and be sophisticated and graceful and eternally youthful and ALWAYS know the perfect thing to say.

And now, here I am at 37. And there are STILL no horses in my backyard.

Often, on my birthday, I remember what my fifteen year-old self dreamed of. I remember what high hopes she had for me, and I feel like I've let her down. She was positive she'd get what she wanted, and always feel confident and accomplished and secure.

But on this birthday, I feel hopeful. Because I'm learning to see aging as a process that contributes to a more whole and centered me. Aging need not be the pessimistic concept we think it is. Instead, it is the chance to learn from past mistakes, accept them gracefully, and bravely move forward with new knowledge. In the past year alone, I've taken giant leaps of courage. I've moved farther along in my recovery from anorexia than I have in the twenty years of being sick. I've let go of toxic relationships and learned to set healthy boundaries with friends and family. I've gotten much better at asking for support when I need it. And I started this blog, which has grown from a simple excuse to document outfits into a statement about body image, courage and confidence.

I have absolutely no desire to be old. No matter my age, I yearn to be youthful. Youth is not a period of time. It is a state of mind, a expression of will, a quality of the imagination, a victory of courage over timidity, and a taste for adventure. A woman doesn't grow old because she has lived a certain number of years. A woman grows old when she abandons her ideal. The years might wrinkle my skin, but preoccupations, fears, doubts and despair are the true enemies of aging. I will remain young as long as I am open to what is beautiful, good and great; welcoming to opportunities to be courageous; and eager for the chance to be creative. I want to be willing to risk failure, and learn to live gracefully if it happens. Life is nothing but a chance to live up to our potential, whatever it may be. And I will embrace those chances. Because I am excited to see the person I will become.


32 comments:

  1. Nice post! Cool blog too!

    Check out mine?

    www.electricbrandon.com

    If you want, follow it and I'll follow yours.

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  2. Rock on, beautiful Elissa. Have a GLORIOUS birthday celebrating your fabulous self!

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  3. A beautiful birthday post, written by a beautiful woman.

    Happy birthday dear Elissa. I think your 15 year old self would be quite inspired if she was to meet you today!

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  4. Happy birthday Elissa! I don't know you personally, but you are a wonderful person to know through your exceptionally written posts and beautiful outfit pictures.

    Remember: "Growing old is mandatory. Growing up is optional." I've always liked that quote. :D

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  5. Yesterday was 66 for me. With daughter, son-in-law, and 2 grandchildren one of which was 2 yesterday.I don't remember having any dreams when I was young. I was supposed to go to college and get married, have kids, and walk into the sunset holding his hand. Of course it didn't work out that way. On your birthday I hope for you the fulfillment of the dreams you have now.

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  6. Happy Birthday!! I hope you have a fabulous day!!

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  7. Happy birthday, I hope your day is amazing and perfect.

    I'm much younger than you (turning 23 soon), but this actually makes me feel better about how different my life has already become since my dreams at 15--the only dream that came true was the college I attended! I don't comment very much, but I wanted to say thanks for always being so open and honest in your posts, they make me so excited to work on becoming the awesome person I want to be.

    Again, happy birthday!

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  8. Happy, happy birthday! May each year get better and better for you.

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  9. Happy Birthday!

    (I so know about struggles of getting older...)

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  10. Happy Birthday Elissa! I'm very inspired by your blog! I love your style, your introspective posts, and your genuine approach to everything. I'm a classical flutist as well! Be proud of who you've become! I'm just beginning my adult life and you are a big inspiration to me! Keep being your amazing self and have a GREAT birthday!

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  11. Happy of happiest birthday from one recovering floutist to another! Finding your blog has been such a blessing in my life this summer, I cannot even begin to tell you how much. Just when I thought I'd throw in the towel on my own, I found you and am inspired to keep working. I hope this year continues to bring you many blessings of joy and happienss!

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  12. Hope you have a wonderful birthday! I've really enjoyed reading your blog since I discovered it a couple months ago. Thanks for all the thoughtful, informative posts. (I especially loved the one about thrifting in Sherman, TX because some of my clothes from the '80s are probably floating around in that store somewhere.)

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  13. Happy birthday! I turned 37 this year, too, and it was a much better birthday than my last one. Basically, because like you, I decided it would be a better one. :)

    Have a wonderful day today, and just so you know...horses are a lot of work, so not having them in your backyard isn't such a big deal. ;)

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  14. Happy, happy birthday, Elissa! A wonderful post as usual. :)

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  15. Such a lovely post! You say it best: youth is not a period of time.

    Happy birthday Elissa!

    www.blahblahbecky.co.uk

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  16. Beautifully said, Elissa. Happiest of birthdays to you, enjoy every minute.

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  17. I'll be 40 in 13 days, but I don't feel 40. Hopefully I can keep on feeling younger than I am.

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  18. Happy birthday Elissa, congratulations on your accomplishments over the past year, and for your interesting and motivating blog!

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  19. Happy birthday Elissa! Mutual Admiration Society forever!!!

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  20. well said, elissa. happy birthday!

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  21. Absolutely beautiful post and one I needed to read. Thank you.

    May your birthday be wonderful and that you celebrate well.

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  22. Happy Birthday, Elissa! I will be 58 in two weeks and I am having the time of my life! So much fun...getting older can actually be a KICK! Hope you have some fun this weekend!!

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  23. Ohhh Elissa, this is a beautifully written post (as they all are). And thank you for writing it because it's relevant to a personal struggle I'm having right now- you spoke to my heart. Hope your day was as fabulous as you are.

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  24. Does the fam know you want a horse in the back yard?

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  25. Happy Birthday!! I really enjoyed reading this post and hearing your perspective. The part about 'abandoning her ideal' really resonated with me. Thank you!

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  26. Beautiful! Try as I may,I could not have said it better. I turned 30 in January and struggled with it a bit because I had not accomplished all I thought I should have. I finally feel like I am "coming in to my own" in all respects and finally enjoying it.

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  27. Happy Birthday, Elissa. I sat with your sentence "a woman grows old when she abandons her ideal" for several moments thinking about what my ideal is and I still want more time to identify it before I even begin to abandon it. :) Thanks for the poignant post, and I hope you're enjoying your day!

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  28. I love your blog. Awesome post and a very happy birthday to you!!

    Christina
    www.stylephile.net

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  29. A good life is definitely helped by mindset. Love your thoughts.

    Happy Birthday, fellow Cancer!!!!!!!!

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  30. Happy birthday. lovely reflection
    www.thesocialbuyer.com

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  31. hehe I had roller rink birthday parties! I miss those days :( I definitely feel the same about my birthday looming around the corner. Definitely not where I thought I'd be in my life at 26. Kind of have to roll with the punches of life. But loved what you said about youth being a state of mind. So true. Getting older doesn't have to be awful if you know you live each moment.

    Happy Birthday!

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  32. You are a whole 7 months younger than me and I GET you. My only fear about getting older is that at some point people will point and laugh because I am too old for my eccentric style. Who am I kidding...I am pretty sure people already point and laugh- just for different reasons. I shall marshal on and I will wear feathers and red tights if I darn well feel like it!

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