A casual observer of my life since my 35th birthday would likely conclude that not much has changed in the past year. But I’ve got that insider knowledge yo and here’s the real dish: My entire world is different. I can see now that each of these changes ushered in a net positive outcome that has benefitted my life, but my ultimate appreciation does not negate how hard of a year it has been for me. It has been a tough year y’all.
In my 35th year, I lost partners, colleagues, friends, and lovers. There were moments I felt unfairly tossed aside, misjudged, and even outright abandoned. Throughout the year, I repeatedly found myself losing faith, trust, and respect for people, institutions, and systems that I had once held in high regard. And on more than one occasion, I was forced to admit that my life was waaaay out of balance: Far too often, I give much, much more than I take.
But clarity eventually followed each perceived slight and with it, I deepened my closest relationships and began setting real boundaries on my time, attention, and in some cases — my affection. Looking back, I think my 35th year can be best characterized as a journey that ultimately allowed me to strengthen and further explore the most important relationship in my life: My relationship with myself.
So while it may have gone unnoticed by casual observers, I can say with confidence that my life is radically different now than it was when I set out on my 35th trip around the sun. This year has certainly been a weird trip, but it did open my eyes to so many things worth seeing. So on my 36th orbit on this beautiful, space rock, I intend to explore and savor all I’ve found. Here’s to 36!
My official 40 by 40 updates — including some significant progress updates are below. Enjoy!
Write a (good) short story or novel (Level 1)
So I did a thing a thing (that I do not want to talk about right now), but it suffices to say – I am officially marking this one off the list and I am really proud of myself. That said, the thing I did (which I promise to spill more on later) basically ensures that my writing goals no longer stop here. So with that said, wish me luck!
Keep a garden alive for one full season (Level 1)
This spring I bought two hanging baskets of flowers for my front porch. Not only did I keep these baskets alive all Spring and Summer, but I even brought one in for the fall (currently enjoying a sunny spot in my dining room) and repotted the other into a much larger array I am working on for next spring. I think I’ve got this one in the bag and who knows – I might just end up with a green thumb after all.
Curate and maintain a stylish and versatile wardrobe that compliments my body type (Level 3)
I have really defined my own personal style over the last several years and I now feel confident enough to mark this as complete. Of course, a wardrobe is never “complete” in the sense that it changes with seasons, trends, and of course, my own changing body. But the days of loading up my online cart full of fast-fashion a couple times a year are thankfully, long over for me. I now take immense pleasure in each item I introduce to my closet and I take great care in ensuring that items I part with either find a new home or are responsibly recycled. I presently thrift 99% of my personal clothing purchases, as well as approximately 90% of Holland’s clothing. My personal style – whether I’m sitting home alone or attending a black-tie gala – finally expresses my personality and suits my comfort/fit preferences.
Take a girls only vacation (Level 3)
One of the (very) few perks of divorce (if you can even call it that) is that there is another adult – whom you wholly trust – that is legally obligated to be responsible for your kid for specific windows of time. And yeah, custody schedules and parenting a kid in two homes isn’t exactly a walk in the park. BUT I decided a long time ago that I could either make lemonade with the lemons life dealt me, or I could slowly suffocate beneath the weight of the lemons. I chose the former and decided awhile back to view my “non-custodial” time to travel. This decision helped craft some of the best lemonade I’ve managed to make thus far! In year 35, I took two amazing trips that meet these qualifications and another one is just right around the corner. Last November, my college-friend Sara and I went to NYC to watch Hamilton and Harry Potter on Broadway! Then this March, my bestie (Alex) and I decided to spend spring break in Italy. And then late next week, I’m heading to Spain with another dear friend (Leah). I am so thankful that 30-year old Kate included this one on the list because it has truly inspired an entire lifestyle change for me post-divorce!
Invest in luxury bedding (Level 3)
I finally nailed this one after many, many missteps. I am planning on re-painting my master bedroom after the holidays and will share photos then, but suffice it to say that my bed is now definitely one of my happy places. I mixed a lot of brands to find my own perfect mix, but at the end of the day (literally) I now get to collapse into a hodgepodge of quilts, sheets, coverlets, and in the winter – electric blankets – that work for me. Psst! Get yourself a silk pillowcase and a weighted eye-mask too! You can thank me later.
Notable Progress Updates:
Visit three countries in Europe (Level 4)
I have officially visited two out of three European countries. As a recap, I went to France for my best friend’s wedding back in 2018. This Spring, that same friend and I jumped on a jet plane and gave Europe another go! We flew into Rome and spent a few days exploring the eternal city before taking a train to Florence. While in Florence, we were able to get outside of the city and enjoy the stunningly beautiful Tuscan landscapes. Following (too little time in) Florence, another quick train ride took us to Venice where we sat on the rooftop each night talking and drinking red wine. Florence was, by far, my favorite of the three cities and I absolutely want to go back as soon as I can. Next time, I want to spend more time in Florence and I’d like to visit the Amalfi coast.
Pay off all student debt (Level 4)
Between year 30 and year 33 my double-income household helped me make significant progress on paying down my student loans. My ability to do so really took a hit when I became the de facto leader of a new, single-income household but thanks to loan student forbearance and Biden’s student loan forgiveness programs, it looks like I might get to officially retire all of my student debt in the next year. I am however, keeping my fingers crossed that some states (including my own state of Arkansas) do not derail these plans with their court challenges to Biden’s student debt relief.