Reflections entering my 35th year. . . Lots of love, learning, and of course, music!

Little Golden Book

Today is my birthday.

A big THANK YOU goes out to my family, friends, and mentors past & present.

A majority of my earlier years were spent maximizing my potential (a dangerous word) and attaining my life’s goals utilizing my God-given creative talents. Often I was one of the highest achievers in whatever I attempted academically. My illustrious 20s were spent at Emerson College, The Boston Globe, Rolling Stone, Larry King Live, School of Media & Public Affairs (SMPA) at The George Washington University, AdvaMed, and the Peace Corps. Now stay with me here…I’m not gloating. It’s a fact that I managed to exhaust everything I possibly could out of life on a daily basis. Between my professional endeavors and social agenda, nothing was left at the end of the day. It’s as if the adage “burning the candle at both ends” was created specifically for me.

Needless to say, my 30s have been rough and lackluster, despite what it might appear. My plans of pursuing a career in Foreign Service following the Peace Corps never came to fruition, due to various health issues. Only recently did I have a bit of success: launching Red Tess Freelance, LLC, executed several large fundraising projects with the Wishlist Foundation & London Bridge Studios, and getting a certificate from Boston University. But by no means was this a Plan B I had in mind. It is not a secret that I struggle with depression. I challenge you to find one writer or artist worth his craft who hasn’t combatted personal demons at some point. I’ve finally accepted that this constant battle is my reality. It’s beyond me how scientists can discover a way to put men on the moon, but they can’t figure out the human brain. But maybe that’s the complex beauty of the mind; like life itself, it’s not meant to ever be fully understood.

I’ve spent most of my life in school. Sure, I have multiple pieces of stamped paper formally acknowledging my educational accomplishments. Studying always came easy to me. That’s great and all, but there are some things you can’t learn behind a desk or in the field. What happens when the books close? Professors neglected to teach one fundamental skill: how to exist as more than what you “do” for a living (try telling that to DC folks). When you’re raised to be competitive, it’s hard not to compare yourself to your peers. It’s difficult not to dismiss what “society” judgmentally considers “normal” for people my age. I’ve failed the “game of life” because I’m nowhere near being married with kids and a mortgage. I’m just not going to stand for that. It would be disingenuous of me to say that now that I’m 35 those musings will be completely eradicated from my mind; however, I can maintain with certainty that from this point on I’ll try my damnedest to keep them at bay. There is no report card for life and there most assuredly is not a study guide. I’ve got enough gold stars and A’s to last a lifetime so maybe this year a “B” is just fine (B for brave, bodacious, balanced, bright, and better!).

Over the course of the past year I’ve come to finally embrace & understand the concept that life is NOT a race. I received one of Little Golden Books as a child (and still have as an adult) called “Henry and Theresa’s Race.” Not only did the author spell my name correctly (ha), but he also delivered an inspiring message that seemed directed to me. “Hooray for Theresa! [She] won the race!” the animals shouted. “How can that be?” asked Henry Hare. “I run so fast, and Theresa Tortoise walks so slowly.” Well, Theresa put him in his place yet again acknowledging: “You may run fast, but you stopped before you were finished. I did not stop until I got here.” Wise old Samuel Owl took both Theresa and Henry under his wings and instructed them both: “Fast is not always best. Sometimes slow and steady wins the race.” Well, the past four years have felt as slow as molasses in January and I wonder at times whether I have gotten anywhere. There are elements of life that are simply immeasurable though. What I know to be true is that I’ve been working diligently on strengthening my mind, my body, and my relationships. (That last sentence is what one very wise, longtime friend of mine would call an “affirmation.” Everybody – no matter what age – needs those in their lives.)

In no way am I insinuating that any of my friends and family who are socially and/or professionally successful did so in a hasty fashion. I’m overjoyed for their personal progress. Life is most unquestionably a journey, NOT a destination. Cliché? Absolutely. True? Hell yeah and I’m going to start owning that. While my circuitous path might not be as straightforward as many people I know it’s just as valid and worth traveling. And let’s be honest, if I lived a conventional existence like most people, y’all would have nothing to talk about. Yup, I said it! In all seriousness though, this 5-paragraph essay might seem self-indulgent, but it has truly helped me. What better way to usher in my 35th year than to be doing something I positively love – writing. This final draft is actually the second time I’ve written these words, because the original draft disappeared with a single keystroke. A couple years ago I would’ve thrown my laptop on the floor and walked away. Not on my 35th birthday however, and that’s evidence of personal growth I’m proud to recognize. So maybe I’ll stick around this big blue ball we all call home for at least another year or 35…