Happy Birthday To Me

Today, I officially turn 35. As my sister puts it, I’ve “only” lived half my life if I am lucky enough to have a life span of 70 years.

35 seems like a good age to reflect. What have I done for the past 35 years?

I don’t have much recollections of the first five years of my life in Hong Kong. Much of the memories are derived from photos, and I am grateful that my dad has always loved taking photos of our family. We grew up with a ton of photo albums at our fingertips, and I’m referring to the ones we actually hold in our bare hands. The walls in our homes were always filled with photo frames, so obviously, my love of photography came from my wonderful daddy.

Before I turned 6, we immigrated to the U.S. and I began my first dose of my American life in the Nob Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, followed by a couple of very memorable years in Idaho. Adapting to a totally new culture is not that difficult for a young child, but kudos to my parents for their courage in toughing out the culture shock. During those years, life was mostly about play and exploration for me. I had the most vivid imagination a child could have, which probably came from the hundreds of books I would read every year. I was either playing, or reading, or doing somersaults down the stairs of our two-story home. Yes, I was an aspiring gymnast, in addition to being an aspiring tennis player, skier, swimmer, diver, skater, biker, and writer, thanks to my Asian parents who loved enrolling me into all kinds of classes. 🙂 They weren’t entirely tiger parents though, as they really just wanted me to have fun and be somewhat productive with my time.

I think I was 7 years old here....

The second decade of my life, as a “tween, teenager, and young adult” was a lot more challenging. Those are the years when you think you know everything, but you’re actually pretty clueless. You’re fighting to gain your independence, even though your maturity level is close to zero. There were a lot of not-so-pretty scenes around the house, mostly stemmed from peer pressure, insecurities, and parental expectations. Those years were all about academics and rebellion.

My 20s were a lot more pleasant. Much of the first half was about having fun again, and fulfilling desires, after having graduated from Cal and scoring a stable job with decent income. I traveled, I partied, I dated, just like other girls in their early 20’s. Those were the years where the future appeared to be yours…anything and everything was possible!

Alan and I white water rafting in Costa Rica

I married Alan when I was 25, pretty young for girls my generation. But, why wait if you think you’ve found your life partner? From that point on, I moved into a completely different phase in life for the second part of my 20s. I learned what it meant to be a wife, to be partners in every aspect of life. We bought our first home together, made some wonderful memories there, sold it, and bought our second home together in just a few years time. Because we both married young, we were in no hurry to start a family. We enjoyed life together traveling, exploring, and building our own separate careers. Life then, was about enjoying the moment.

Our first home together

At 30, I became a mother. Talk about life-changing. Nothing, absolutely nothing, that anyone can tell you will truly prepare you for the transformation as soon as you become a parent. Yes, you’ve heard about sleep deprivation, about unconditional love, about everything there is to hear about parenting, but to actually feel it and to experience it is a completely different story. So, the first half of my great 30s were spent figuring out how to be a parent, and in the process, I learned a great deal about myself.

Photo taken by Todd Rafalovich

It’s impossible to be a parent, and not think about your own parents in a different way. I remember when I argued with my mom before my 30s, she would always say, “One day, you’ll understand what I mean when you become a mother yourself.” I use to find that comment odd, and a bit annoying because she was implying that I did not understand her when I thought I did! Now, there are so many times in a day when I would think back to a specific incident with my mom, and interpret it in a completely new way. It is as if the pieces of the puzzle suddenly fell into place, and the dots have magically connected.

At 35, I finally feel like I (mostly) know what I’m doing in life, while recognizing how much I still have to learn and discover. I’ve learned enough about myself to be comfortable with who I am and to accept who I am. I have a career that I really love, and a supportive family that means the world to me. I know to be grateful for good health, good friends, and good times.

I’m still figuring out the parent thing, but I hear that’s a lifetime journey. Just when I figured out how to best handle a 4 year old, she is now turning 5! 🙂 But the best part of it all is that….

I have learned to love the journey of life!

And being a mom has made all my other roles in life that much more enjoyable….so cheers to myself for making it to 35 with some wisdom and maturity (so I think…). Oprah says that the 50s really rock, so aging is no longer all that intimidating to me as I look forward to more milestones in life! 🙂

Happy birthday to me! 

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