I was born in 1980. Three years before cellphones became a must-have for the wealthy. Home computers were just starting to be sold at around $1500 each ($4,000 if you adjust for inflation). Three’s Company, Dallas and The Love Boat were the hit television shows. It was a much simpler time where children still went outside to play, and more bikes were sold than video games. Flash forward 39 years to present day, 2020. Everyone has the latest cellphone. Home computers or laptops are household staples and cost $600 on average. Fleabag, Chernobyl and Sex Education are some of the most popular TV shows. It is a much more complicated time with the news constantly at our fingertips. Children spend more time indoors playing video games than riding bikes. You can even become a Professional Gamer now. The world has changed significantly.

I am so grateful to have grown up when I did. MTV, Debbie Gibson, Back to the Future, Slap Bracelets, Pogs, etc. All of it can make a person nostalgic, but I just appreciate that I experienced it at all. To know the difference between the decades is a gift. The current decade, the roaring 20’s (revisited), is the decade in which I will turn 40 years old. Most people freak out for these milestone birthdays of 30, 40, 50, etc. and yet I am not worried about getting older. Just like knowing the difference between 1980 and 2020, growing to be 40 is a privilege that not everyone experiences. What I fret over is the anxiety and fear that has been keeping me from living a full life. I am going to be 40 years old and I haven’t done a lot of the things I dreamed of doing as a child or young adult. I am not one of these people who think that there’s a blueprint for life where at a certain age you should have acquired a career, home, mate, kids and so on. Outside societal forces have come at me with that ruler and sized me up as failing, but I truly don’t care. What I care about is fear holding me back from experiences.

Towards the end of 2019 I left my high paying, pension bearing County position to take care of myself. I had been battling Anxiety and Depression and it was creating some health concerns. Skin disorders, insomnia, overeating and excessive drinking were taking their toll on me. I woke up one morning in September and instantly said to myself, “by my 39th birthday (October 31st), I need to take care of myself.” Basically, what that meant to me is that I would need to quit this job I had no passion for. This job that I was just keeping because it had all the benefits society drills into our heads is necessary for a happy life. If you have health insurance, paid holidays, paid sick leave and a pension, but you cry every morning before you go to work, I don’t think the benefits are worth it. So, after consulting with my Mister, I made this huge decision to put in my notice. My last day was October 25th, 2019. During that month leading up to leaving many people wished they could do what I was doing which made me so sad. I also heard from people calling me crazy and that made me want to prove them wrong. Not in a spiteful way, but in the words of someone I admire: “The best revenge is success.”

Success, what does that even look like to someone who doesn’t care about the fancy car, house, clothes, etc. It has been a real struggle for me to figure out what my idea of success looks like. What am I aiming for? I don’t want for much. I just want to be comfortable and have something to do every day that provides me with satisfaction and fuels my passions. My birthday came and went and then it hit me that I was on my way to 40 and I had so much crippling fear holding me back from the things I wanted to do. We aren’t born with fear. 1980 Jennie wasn’t scared of much and yet 2020 Jennie fears everything. Life is to be experienced and sometimes I feel like I’m practically walking around in a plastic bubble. Fear is false evidence appearing real. It’s our brain psyching us out. When we hold tight to fear, we limit our life because of it.

In August of 2019, I wrote down a list of all the things I fear. There were about 52 things that ranged from Skydiving to horseback riding to flying in an airplane. When I quit my job, I completed # 1 on that list. So, I decided that I would narrow the list down and title it 40 Things That Scare Me Before I Turn 40. “Quit my job to pursue my passions” was the first thing on my list and though it was scary, I did it. Somewhere between October 2019 and March 2020, I lost that sense of accomplishment and that societal narrative weaseled its way back into my ear. “Get a real job,” “You’ll never make it,” “You’ll never buy a house,” “You should have kids,” and so on. It gets loud and it takes time to truly figure out what you’re supposed to put all your energy into. I have this list. I’ve neglected it for some time and the calendar pages keep turning. I have 241 days until I turn 40 years old. I plan to mark off each thing on my list. 39 more to go. When you push through a fear, there is so much that you learn about yourself and about life as a whole. I want to share this journey. We have all felt fear and had it stop us from pursuing something we’ve been dreaming of. We must take it one day at a time. One fear at a time. What will I tackle next? Stay tuned…

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