On my 32nd birthday, here’s 32 of my problems that I threw in a dumpster

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This past weekend I got together with an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while for an emotional closet cleaning. We each made a list of all the emotional baggage we wanted to be free of, placed the papers in an old suitcase, drove it 20 minutes out of town and threw it in a dumpster. Then we went for lunch.

As a woman, a musician, and an aspiring artist now knee-deep in her 30s, this birthday brought up a lot of stuff for me. My husband asked me what I want for my birthday, but this year I’m far more interested in what I can purge than in anything I could receive. Here are 32 things that were in that suitcase, in no particular order.

  1. Being unhappy with where I’m at in life. There is no magic finish line to life, and even if there was, I am not supposed to be there at 32. And even if I was there, then what would I even do with the rest of my life? Finish lines make no sense.
  2. Being unhappy with where I’m at as an artist. I’m on a journey, and I’m at a spot where every single other artist alive has been. Also, see #1.
  3. Being resentful of other people for things they have said or done to me without apology. Anger is a call to action, but resentment is a slow death. Use it, say something, make art, heal, move forward. Forgiveness must always be earned, but the Pheonix does not need validation from the ashes to rise.
  4. Operating from a mindset of scarcity. Recognize the dreams that have come true.
  5. Being out of touch with my friends and family.
  6. Being hard on myself for the low points in my creative productivity. Some times are for creating, some times are for performing, other times are for reflecting.
  7. Being afraid to try things that seem “unproductive” to me, like painting or rock climbing. Do things just for fun.
  8. Being fixated on a problem for too long, unproductively. Meditate. Let go. Return to it later with a fresh mind. Also, have I eaten/slept? I might need a time out.
  9. Being afraid of my own success and how my life will change if my career progresses. The career of a musician is hardly predictable, and there’s no way to know what shape it will take. But it will be of my own making.
  10. Being afraid of my age as a woman in music. There is a place for me, and if there isn’t, I will carve it out myself. But I could not have written the songs I write now at 23.
  11. Setting time limits on pursuing my dreams; e.g. “If I don’t achieve X by the time I’m XX years old then I might as well give up.” My dream is my life, and it can only grow as I do. I will not go backwards.
  12. Taking on commitments that do not serve me, or anyone or anything I care about.
  13. Being afraid to speak my mind politically. I may not be a captain in the army, but I aim to be a brave and dutiful soldier of the causes I believe in.
  14. Blaming others for who I am. Quite frankly, if nothing bad had ever happened to me, if no one had ever hurt me, I would be boring. All the talent in the world cannot save a boring artist. So, these people who have wronged me have also given me a great gift. I have the power to transform their transgressions, if I so choose, and turn them into art. But these people don’t write my story, they don’t own my sorrows, and they certainly won’t share in my glories.
  15. Holding on to old grudges. I just don’t have the energy to hold on to anything anymore!
  16. Being unhappy with my appearance. I am not as old and ugly as I sometimes like to think. But I’ve noticed that putting in the effort to eat well, exercise, dress up for work, put on make-up, etc. does help my self-image because it makes me feel like I’m taking care of myself. Nothing wrong with that!
  17. Being ashamed of not knowing something. Sometimes knowing less is more.
  18. Talking too much to compensate for my imposter syndrome. My voice can’t handle it so let’s just say it once and move on, shall we?
  19. Comparing myself to other people and feeling like everyone else is doing better than me. In other words, drop the devastating jealousy. Everyone is on their own unique journey. But honestly, if someone is doing amazing then let that be motivating instead of crippling. Did they really do anything that I can’t do if I put my mind to it? Also fair question: do I want their life, complete with their time management breakdown?
  20. Feeling guilty about not knowing when I’m going to have kids. I know that we want kids, but financially and career-wise, we both know that it doesn’t make sense right now. People think owning my dog is like having a kid, but for all her medical expenses she should really have her own one-bedroom apartment. Besides, my husband made his greatest career strides in his mid-30s, and I just want the same opportunity.
  21. Feeling guilty for my lazy mornings. I work afternoons into the evening, so the morning is my downtime. I often feel like I’m supposed to be doing something because it’s the morning, but this is my time!
  22. Being afraid of changing course. Once I start something, I can get stuck in it for a long time beyond it’s expiration date in my heart. I’m trying to be more open to change.
  23. Hanging on to useless crap in my house. I’m talking literal garbage. I keep finding hiding places for all kinds of useless knick-knacks because, oh I don’t know, they’re in “good condition,” or “it’s a memento,” of that time, or “if we just find the missing piece it’ll be worth it.” Throw that shit out!
  24. Pretending I am a therapist. I am not a therapist. I need therapy.
  25. Procrastination, avoiding bed time, and other forms of self-sabotage.
  26. Letting myself feel bad for too long before getting help.
  27. Being afraid to reach out to someone I haven’t talked to in a long time.
  28. Spending too much time on the internet until I feel anxious.
  29. Diving into work to avoid addressing the problems in my marriage/career/friendships, etc.
  30. Taking criticism about my artistry too personally. Be open to feedback from people I trust and respect. (And screw the rest!)
  31. Being really harsh on Young Laura and the stupid things she did, how naive she was, how unable she was to navigate certain life-altering situations, etc. She was just a kid, so give her a break. She did do some pretty badass things, too, so remember those moments.
  32. My fear of ghosts. I bought a ouija board and I’m coming for you, ghosts!

 

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