As I approached my fortieth birthday, I began to believe more firmly than ever that we are all both lucky and unlucky all the time – feeling lucky is merely a matter of perspective. Both the Chinese and Japanese detest the number four because the word for death in their languages sounds quite similar, while the Pythagoreans believed the number four to be perfect. Some focus on the one terrible association with the number while others take note of the many wonderful things which come in fours: phases of the moon, seasons, elements (earth, air, fire, water), directions (north, south, east, west), and even the leaves of a lucky clover. Knowing all this, as my annual dose of holiday gloom latched onto me like a lead vest days before my fourth decade on the planet would be complete, I vowed that this year would be different. This year I would successfully bluff away my gloom.
Then, like anyone who’s prone to reminding others that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results, I began my quest to forget the things that make me blue by opening a few of my birthday presents early (aka the same thing I’ve done every other year). Not being completely insane myself, I wasn’t surprised when the joy of opening one present early merely made me want to open a second… and was extremely grateful when doing so led to an even better plan.
The second gift was a ring from my twin sister which we like to say has twinning powers. Not long after I slipped it on my finger I realized that what would really make my holiday season sparkle with happiness is to create a memory with my twin. Within 24 hours, we were picking a date to meet at Disneyland. I realized that while my new job would keep me away from family and working on the holidays, it was also stabilizing my income enough that I could afford a memorable excursion with my twin… and that having something to look forward to was the best gift I could give myself. Just as I’d hoped, the delight of anticipation promptly rebalanced my mood and enabled me to respond to my holiday gloom differently.
I can’t change the fact that I find myself having to explain why I haven’t found someone special yet and whether or not I want to have children far more frequently during the holidays, but thanks to a speech by Tracee Ellis Ross, I knew there were far more successful women than I who were equally bothered by this conversational phenomena. What I could do was to take advantage of all the advantages which being single and childless can offer. I could enjoy the peace and quiet of my apartment or plan an excursion anywhere I want, whenever I decide to do so. Most importantly, I could dream big knowing that only I could hold myself back.
In the final hours of our thirties, my twin and I divulged what birthday miracle we were wishing for to each other via text. Before I awoke, my twin’s wish came true. She had discovered that her employer was sending her to work at their Menlo Park location on the same day which the Pac-12 Championship would take place nearby – USC (her alma matter) vs. Stanford. Dressed in Trojans gear to taunt her coworkers (many of whom had attended Stanford), she attracted the attention of a family waiting to board the same flight for the game. When my twin told them she wasn’t going to be able to attend the game unless she somehow got a free ticket, the family happily handed her the extra they had on hand. Better still, it turned out to be in the club lounge seats. That is what I call a birthday miracle. She got the best seat she could possibly have wished for.
When we talked on the phone mid-day, I was ecstatic. “See!?! If you don’t believe in fairytales and birthday miracles, they will never come true,” I squealed, certain her experiences that day had confirmed this fact and increased the possibility my wish would also come true. By the time I was driving home from the casino that evening (a little poorer), I was a little less certain. My desired birthday miracle had not occurred, but I had a fabulous day nonetheless. As I navigated that familiar road feeling unusually content, I remembered that a far bigger wish I’d wished many years prior had finally come true.
Once upon a time, I was living a life I thought I wanted, feeling afraid, restless, unhappy, and uncertain of what I truly wanted in life. I got divorced knowing only one thing – I didn’t want that life – and wished to figure out who I wanted to be and become that woman. About a month ago, I’d articulated exactly what I wanted in life (right now) to a new friend and he had helped make it happen. I have a new job as a bartender and server at a nice restaurant – precisely the type of job and schedule I wished to juggle my art and writing career around. I had figured out what type of woman I wanted to be and become her. What more could/should a gal wish for than that?
Perhaps 4 is an unlucky number for some, but I believe my forties will be spectacular. With a bit of twinning power, faith, trust, and pixie dust, I will continue to dream big and strive to achieve, knowing I’ve already accomplished the most important goal of all. Being conscious of your wants and needs is the key to everything. It’s the reason why you play the game of life the way you do and the ultimate source of personal empowerment. Perhaps wishes don’t always come true, at least not when you want them to, but the fact remains that if you don’t wish them and seek them out, they will never come true… and, when it comes to wishes, late is always better than never.