Turning 36

At 1:00 PM today, October 12, I turned 36 years old; I know it will take a bit for that to sink it, just as it did when I turned 35 (and 34, 33, 32, etc).

This past year has been, and I don’t think I exaggerate, probably the hardest one in my life. Whereas the year prior to last was taxing because I spent most of it traveling a lot and taking care of Mom, plus eventually burying her and saying goodbye, last year was hard because I had to live with that reality, and the effects it brought on me and those around.

I looked at my journal entry from a year ago and I spent the entire day enclosed in my house, speaking over the phone with just a few people. I did not have, nor did I want, a birthday party, not even a small one; we just went out to eat sushi and then went home. It was almost a non-event. As time went on, I sunk into a deep depression that affected me, my marriage, and pretty much anything related to me in any way. I did start my Nursing studies in January, but even for that first semester it was a struggle to remain afloat.

Eventually I started seeing a therapist (thank you FIU for providing this service to the student population – seriously, thank you) and she helped me to deal with a few key issues I had been repressing hardcore for a long time. My mom’s death was a big part of my mental trauma, but there were more basic problems that went deeper. She forced me to challenge myself to climb out of the hole I had dug and lain in to let life pass me by. It took more than a few proverbial tumbles, falls and brawls with people close and important to me for me to realize some errors I had been making and how these were affecting others, but in the end that served to improve me, to make me stronger.

Am I well now? Hardly. My last session with my therapist was just last week; but I am better, and improving. F0r over two years I had been hovering around the 340-350 lbs mark, and this was affecting me physically and emotionally. When classes started, 7 weeks ago, I started going to the gym at school and have continued to go almost daily since then. Yesterday I weighed myself and was at 325 lbs, the first time in at least 2 years ( maybe more) that I have been under 330 and able to use the Wii Fit that was my birthday gift 2 years ago. I just punched the third makeshift hole in my belt. This is huge, cause I never though this would happen. This change in my life alone has given me a new energy, a new desire to live, a new passion for what the world has to offer.

To some 36 may seem like a lot; let’s not kid ourselves, it IS the mid-30s. But I don’t see it as a lot. At least the new-Me doesn’t. I see 36 as the start of a new chapter, especially coupled with the changes I have gone through thanks to therapy. I don’t see myself as 36, but instead as twice-18. When I was 18, I was naive, shy to a fault and afraid to see and experience what the world had to offer. This time around I can be 18 but tempered by the extra 18 years of experience I have on that version of Me. I can be 18 but banish that naivete, exile that shyness, dispel that fear that left me paralyzed for over a decade of my life.

That is my gift to myself on my 36 birthday: to become a Me that is twice-18 who experiences life knowing well what he likes and doesn’t, but unafraid to live beyond that as well; who enjoys the awesome that the world has to offer without paralyzing fear; and who is true to himself first and foremost, because when one is true to oneself first and foremost, only then can one be true to others as well. This is my new manifesto. I’m not saying I’ll live up to it every single day henceforth, but it will certainly color my life from here on.

Bring it on, 36. Bring it on.

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