I remember clearly when my parents turned 35. I was a fifth grader. My mom even gave birth to my youngest brother, Joe on her 35th birthday. But my parents were seemingly more successful and had better judgement than I do today. In the fifth grade, thinking about what I would be at age 35, I thought I would have a college degree from Stanford University. I was a North Dakota girl who wanted a California education. I thought I would be a major market television anchor or a high-powered attorney, maybe even in an elected office by age 35. I would live in a big city, be married with four kids, ages 2, 4, 6 and 8. By seventh grade, I added an Olympic discus thrower to my list of future accomplishments.
But today I turned 35 years old. I spent my day in the most frigid temperatures in North Dakota I remember on my birthday. I was home all day with my kids, minus a small town dentist visit with the girls, had a long chat at a friend’s house and ate two homemade meals with my family in the middle of the rural North Dakota prairie. The first cozy, comfort meal was Chicken Wild Rice Soup. But the big comfort meal I didn’t have to cook because my mother-in-law made a German Russian supper of strudels and all the fixings on the side: pork roast, potatoes, green beans and of course, gravy. We topped it off with my favorite pink cake: cherry with fluffy frosting, just like my mom made me when I was a kid.
I was reminded passions and dreams evolve past fifth grade. I am not who I thought I was going to be at age 35, when my parents turned the same age.
I quit throwing the discus competitively at age 22 but track and field is a love that has never left me.
I never earned a degree from Stanford but had a wonderful journey elsewhere.
I had no work commitments on my 35th birthday. I wore fleece lined pants, Under Armour socks and shirt and plenty more layers of Polartec fleece to stay warm. There was no power attorney suit or TV anchor dress to put on today on my 35th birthday. No office to drive to or flight to catch.
My life has evolved. My passions are instilled. My dreams still have come true.
At age 35, I am firmly planted on the prairie, right where I am supposed to be, but where I never dreamed to be.
I have learned so much in my 30’s. My favorite advice came from my mom, five years ago tonight, I was pregnant with Anika, flying to San Antonio on my 30th birthday. My mom said to me on the phone while I was walking through the Minneapolis airport to make my connection, “Your 30’s will be the happiest years of your life. They were for me.”
How could she know that? It was a guarantee. Just after that I was upgraded to first class with my friend and former colleague, Leah. She drank free red wine. I drank Sprite. We laughed until we cried that night. I remember thinking this was the beginning of the happiest years of my life.
Happiness I have learned is choice. My 30’s have been my happiest years of my life because I decided they were going to be.
No matter my age, what career path I chose, college I did or didn’t attend, big city I never lived in or the prairie I live on now, I choose happiness, at age 35.
If you want an inside look back at my years prior to age 35, my mom shared memories and many old photos of me, not all cute but some very sweet on her GriggsDakota blog today.
And my birthday wouldn’t be complete without a special birthday shout-out to a fellow prairie mama and blogger, the fabulous Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, who calls me “an ag girl”, a title I am so proud to be. Happy Birthday, Ree!