First of all, can I just say that I cannot believe my 31st birthday is JUST around the corner, barreling towards me like the surly Kuala Lumpur cabbies that speed up as they see a pedestrian crossing the road. Only this time, no amount of dodging or running faster will help evade the big 3-1 milestone about to collide into me. As I write this post, I am in-between loads of laundry, washing my baby girl’s clothes so they are ready for her whenever she decides to make her grand entrance. A couple years ago, doing laundry at 11am on a weekday, for a baby on-the-way no less, was definitely not something I had envisioned for myself….
When I was younger, I used to wish I was “older” so I could have more privileges and responsibilities. When I was 10, I wanted to be 13 – a teenager. When I was 13, I wanted to be 15 to get my driving permit. When I was 15, I wanted to be 16 to get my license. At 16, it was 18 that I aspired to be, and at 18, I couldn’t wait for my 21st birthday, for obvious reasons living in the US it meant I could legally order a drink! Bring on the cosmos! However, once I hit 21, the wishing to be older finally stopped as the sage advice from my Dad kept resonating in my head, “don’t wish your life away, enjoy your time NOW.”
I had all of these grand plans for my life when I was in my early 20s. I used to think that I could diagram out such life events and, you know, it would just happen per my schedule. For example, I thought, nay knew, I would be in San Diego living close to the ocean, meet and marry my husband around 25-26, and have children before I was 30. It’s funny to look back on these thoughts and see just how far from reality they turned out to be.
Let’s see, at 23 when I was theoretically supposed to be meeting my husband so we could date and get engaged in the next 2 years, I was working 80-100 hours a week, FAR FAR FAR away from the ocean (350 miles to be exact in the desert city of Phoenix). I was busy making a career, not a life. I put everything in my life second (including my own health) to work. I lived off the rush of making deadlines, accomplishing more work than 4 people could handle, presenting and organizing projects for clients and rising the corporate ladder at such a young age. Nothing else mattered to me. I was a girl on a mission, I was obsessed with work. Dating was the last thing on my mind, as I buried myself deeper and deeper into the drudgery of my job. The aspirations of my lofty life/love plans moving further and further away with each press release that I drafted, presentation I made, and trade show I attended. For better or for worse, my career was now my priority, my love, my life.
Then at 25, when, in accordance to my plan, I was supposed to be getting married, I decided to go to graduate school instead. Ironically, this is actually where I met my husband, but getting married was still a far cry from reality once we actually graduated. I earned an MBA, traveled the world and worked for some pretty cool companies along that 2-year journey. Not to mention, met some of my best friends along the ride. And, then, in what seemed like an instant, grad school was over, and I was 27, working in corporate America in Portland, Oregon. Again, I threw myself into my career, eager to make a difference – which then led me to leave my cushy job in Oregon for a crazy start-up back in Phoenix. Once again, I found myself working 80+ hours a week, obsessed with a career that was taking the place of a meaningful relationship. Work was always there, despite the turmoil of life around me, it was something I could always count on – so I worked harder. Pulled longer hours. Accomplished more. And basically fell into the same vicious cycle of putting everything else on hold for my career.
In the meantime, my husband (then boyfriend) and I had been attempting to do the “long-distance” relationship thing. Now, let’s face it, how often do long-distance relationships work? Especially ones that span the globe, with no real set plans for HOW and WHEN we could be together! We loved each other, definitely, but these questions loomed over our heads like a storm cloud raining on our parade! How could we make a relationship work that was based over Skype and text messages?
Then, in an instant – with the “ding” of an email no less – my life changed forever. The email that changed my life was from him, my C, that basically said, “love trumps all, let’s make this work, you’re the ONE.” And, just like that, everything that I thought was so important, press releases, trade shows, and PowerPoint presentations became so trivial. What was I doing? Why was I killing myself for a company that was so one-sided, I put way more into that relationship than I got back, ha!
Now, all of a sudden, my priorities shifted from marketing to weddings, packing and eventually moving. Moving 7,000 miles east, to India, to be with the love of my life. Yes, me, the one who was seemingly in-love with my career broke off that relationship for one such more meaningful. I left all that behind to be with C in India. We stayed in India for nearly 8 months before he got transferred to Kuala Lumpur, where we are today. It’s funny to think back 10 years ago, when the original “plan” was conceived. From California to Kuala Lumpur, from beach to urban jungle, from married and kids at 25 and 28 respectively, to expecting our first child at 31.
Even though my life hasn’t gone as I originally planned, I wouldn’t change anything, even the less-than-happier moments, because even the tough times are worth something in the end – they teach you to better appreciate the things that matter most in life. I never thought I’d be taking time off from my career to start a family, but then again, I could never have fathomed living in Asia and married to the most amazing man in the world. He’s not perfect, but he’s perfect for me. Sure we argue, we fight, we disagree, but there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t feel blessed that we are married. Living abroad, dealing with culture shock on a daily basis, balancing our multicultural marriage, and even a difficult pregnancy has only brought us closer.
It’s easy for casual onlookers to pass judgment and say that C and I are living in a fairytale life abroad. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s a challenge, it definitely is! But as they say, nothing worth having ever comes easy. We work hard for what we have, and when things are difficult, we have faith that we WILL get through it, and everything will work out in the end. I think that’s what’s made all the difference in our lives – instead of backing away from challenges, we embrace them, we charge full steam ahead with the belief that everything will be FINE.
From my grandiose San Diego life plans, to climbing the corporate ladder and relishing every deadline or meeting, to now, so happy and blessed with every smile, hug and moment shared with my husband, life sure has thrown me a curve ball, but you know what? I wouldn’t trade it in for the world.
So, with my 31st birthday on the horizon, I welcome the milestone with open arms, excited to see where this journey of life will take C, baby girl and I next. I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes, that in so many ways, seems to encapsulate this journey we are on…
“And think not you can direct the course of love, for love If it finds you worthy, directs your course.”