The Weekly Edit: Another Trip Around the Sun

May 28, 2020

Tomorrow is my birthday.  I’m going to be 38.

When you think about birthdays, it’s the milestone years — 18, 21, 30, 35, 40 — that catch the most attention.  And as grateful as I am for another year, I’ve been feeling down all week.

The question that keeps percolating in my mind is, “Is this where I thought I would be at 38?”  And the answer is no.

I spent almost two years in a deep depressive episode, and that experience put my life off track.  Attempts to re-align have been moderately successful, but nothing feels like the level of achievement and contentment that I’m looking for as I move through my late-30s.

When you’re 18, you plan for college.  In college, you plan for your 20s.  By the time your 30, you realize that you still have so far to go on your career and life journey that making plans into a distant, unpredictable future gets harder.  It’s easy to plan for the next ten years when the milestones seem somewhat obvious.  It’s harder to create milestones when you realize you’ll be working for another three decades.

This weekend, I plan to find some time to start mapping out the next year.  My experience with goal-setting has been mixed, but some of my friends swear by it.  And I freely admit, that my decisions over the past four years have felt more like a triage than a plan.  So I’ll set some goals for the next year, and see if trying to put a sense of agency back into my future plans helps.

Life feels more stable these days than it did two or three years ago, but it still doesn’t feel as fulfilling as it once did.

For months, my ‘Sanity Walk’ uniform has been a striped sweatshirt, a North Face vest, and a pair of leggings.  Comfortable, pulled together, warm.  (Not to mention super simple.)  Then, yesterday, out of nowhere, the mercury spiked and I needed to find something cooler to wear.

Guess who doesn’t own any outdoor, summer-appropriate workout tops?

Part of the issue is that I don’t love sleeveless workout tops.  I don’t love my arms, and I’d like to offer them a little cover.  But almost every summer workout top is sleeveless.  So here are a few that aren’t.

Athleta Camo Daily Tee 

Core10 Icon Tee

Athleta Foothill Tee

We all know that I love a good true crime podcast, and my newest listen is CounterClock.

The podcast investigates the murder of a young woman killed in the late 1990s in her home in Kill Devil Hills, NC.  The story is told by a young journalist from Kill Devil Hills whose feelings about her hometown were forever changed by the shocking crime.  If you need an interesting podcast to listen to, this one is a good place to start.

Being back on the campaign trail feels weird.  It’s a surreal experience to be at work again, even is the 2020 trail looks very different than past years.  And being back at work, I need to wear makeup, but there’s no way that I can manage a full-face of makeup right now.

So I decided to give an old favorite, Laura Mercier’s Tinted Moisturizer, a try.  I bought the mini-size from Sephora, and was so grateful to have a product that felt light and wearable but offered enough coverage to help me look like I came to work.  Unlike the old days, the product comes in dozens of shades.  One chat with Sephora customer service and they helped me pick out the right shade without having to visit a store.

If you’re looking to simplify your makeup routine when your workplace reopens, Laura Mercier’s product is definitely worth a look.

As I’ve mentioned before, Kyle is loathe to eat dessert of any kind.  He’d rather have another Old Fashioned or a second appetizer than ever eat dessert.  So this year, I decided to bake myself Molly Yeh’s Birthday Cake for Two.

It’s a cute, simple, funfetti-style cake that feels festive without creating leftovers.  I’ll have a slice after dinner, and a slice for post-birthday breakfast, and that’ll be plenty.

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  1. pompom says:

    Happy Birthday, birthday twin! Have a great one tomorrow!

  2. heather says:

    Happy birthday! If you like the tinted moisturizer, it’s sold on for half off. Even if you don’t have a physical Costco store, the online store is definitely worth the $60 annual fee for the beauty and clothing finds you don’t see in the stores! (Hunter, North Face, Kate Spade, La Mer, Laura Mercier, Mac are all consistently found online)

  3. MOnica T says:

    Happy almost Birthday! That cake looks adorable, funfetti can’t be beat.

    I don’t think you’re the only one who feels this way about the late 30s early 40s. For myself, I know that the next 12 years will involve raising my daughter to adulthood, but beyond that what else am I supposed to be doing? Many of the milestones have been accomplished, but do we just keep doing what we’re doing for a decade or more until we change gears in our 50s? And with the current situation I can’t even figure out what I’ll be able to do for my 40th next year. One part of my brain thinks not having a plan feels great, since plans are meaningless when the entire world can change in a few month period. Another part wants to be able to picture where I’m going to be next year to get me through right now. Living in the present is hard.

    • MOnica T says:

      Oh and I also wanted to share some baby cake recipes from my favorite birthday cake source:

      These are 6-inch, so still diminutive though more than 2 servings. Makes doing the dishes worth it. I use her cake recipes for my daughters and mom’s birthday cakes and my mom said of the Tuxedo Cake I made this year for her that it was the ‘best cake she’s ever had’. And in 73 years I imagine she’s eaten her share of cake!

  4. Lauren says:

    I relate to this so much. Thank you for sharing with all of us. It really is inspiring that even when you are struggling, you are also working on bettering yourself/the situation.

    Happy Birthday! Enjoy tomorrow!!

  5. Marge says:

    Happy Birthday, Belle. Thanks for sharing. I understand a bit of what you are going through – I feel like I’ve lost the last 10 years of my life to depression and anxiety as I am rounding the corner to 40. I’ve never been married, no kids, and am facing the privilege and terrifying burden of carving out an unconventional path forward in life.

    • Becky says:

      Happy Birthday!

      And CHEERS to unconventional. I was married for 13 years, and now I am divorced, 40, child-less/free. I am setting goals, but it is hard to with the uncertainty. In the meantime, I am getting more organized financially, to grow and preserve what I’ve accomplished thus far. There are no maps I can find to help me navigate, so at least I will be organized and open to what opportunity comes my way. I am embracing liminality!

  6. Shelley Obrien says:

    Happy Birthday!

    I am in my late 40’s and most younger people I know feel this way. I believe this is part of our life journey. I don’t know about you but nothing in my life has turned out as planned. And that is awesome! It has afforded me tons of opportunities and experiences I never would have dreamed of. Career-wise, am I where I wanted to be? Nope. But that’s okay. It’s even kidda perfect.

    On my 40th birthday I made a reverse bucket list. I listed out all the cool things, accomplishments, experiences I had in life so far. It was a diverse and a kick ass list. Some things were small — like I cooked an entire Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people one year. Some items were big. All of it was wonderful and messy, and I am grateful for all of it because it makes me, me.

  7. Meghan says:

    Happy birthday!! May your year be filled with things that bring you joy and peace.

    As far as true crime grows, strong recommendation for Someone Knows Something and Uncover. Both excellent podcasts!

  8. Michelle says:

    Happy Birthday! Enjoy a fabulous cocktail and the cake!

    And thank you for sharing that podcast. I grew up visiting nearby Nags Head in the summer so this will be really interesting to listen to.

  9. anna c says:

    Happy birthday!! That cake sounds perfect.

    I feel you on the milestones, and striving ahead. In a sense, because I went to grad school late (started at 28, graduated at 31, am now 34), I feel like I still have milestones professionally that I’m striving for. That said, I did tell my therapist late last year that I felt stuck at work, like “is this really all I’m going to be doing for the next 30 years?” COVID has definitely changed my work, so I guess we’ll see how the next year goes.

  10. Ash says:

    Happy birthday! I also dislike sleeveless workout tops. Try the Speedlight Tee from Athleta. I find them to be slimming, flattering on my postpartum tummy, and there is an elastic band at the bottom that keeps them from riding up when doing yoga. I have three colors. The black and maroon are especially slimming.

    • Rebecca says:

      +1 for the Speedlight tees! They’re my favorite for exactly the reasons you mentioned: the ruching and the hem grippers. 🙂

  11. Sophie says:

    Happy Birthday!! (Or almost early birthday) My husband is the same way when it comes to desserts and as someone with a very severe sweet tooth, this is a struggle. Check out Dessert for Two by Christina Lane. She’s a favorite with small portions.

  12. Jennifer says:

    Happy birthday! I love Danielle LaPorte’s desire mapping as a goal setting framework, and it’s really resonated with me throughout various mental health challenges, disappointments, compromises and set backs. Some of it is pay what you want and there is a digital workbook for maybe $12 that I highly recommend to anyone wanting to go through the process. Basically you start with the way you want to feel throughout your day/month/year and then walk backwards from there to set goals that support those feeling states and are based on internal (not external) desires.

  13. Gigi says:

    Happy Birthday, Birthday Twin(s)! I hope you all have a great day, I’m rooting for you! I’ll also be spending time birthday weekend goal setting, here’s hoping it can spur us onward.

  14. Sherry says:

    Happy early birthday, Belle! I appreciate everything you share on the blog, especially introspective posts like today’s that speak to all of us. I hope the next year brings you lots of joy and success and learning! <3

  15. J says:

    Happy (early) birthday! As I’m about to turn 40 this year, I’ve been thinking about all the good things that have happened so far and where I’d like to go in the next 5 years. My plans never go as expected, but doing it in 5 year timeframes has allowed to me to try get as close to the goal as possible, but with the flexibility of changing direction if I needed to.

    And one of the good things in my life has been this blog and the community around it. You’ve been a constant for more years than I’d like to count, and I’m grateful that you’ve foster such a great thing here!

  16. Caroline says:

    Happy Birthday!!!
    I am always so grateful for your honesty and introspection. I feel confident that wherever the next few years take you, you’re going to do a great job with it. Thank you for sharing, always.

  17. Leila says:

    Happy birthday, Belle! I hope you have a great weekend, and get to enjoy one of the cocktails you post on Fridays.

  18. Ana says:

    Happy birthday! Wishing you a wonderful year ahead filled with as much happiness and peace as possible! Thanks so much for your integrity, openness and honesty – among many reasons, that’s why we are all loyal readers and staunch supporters. The best laid plans can sometimes go a bit poof, but no matter what happens, I’m sure you’ll get to the other side successfully and gracefully.

  19. Elle says:

    Happy (almost) Birthday Belle!

    I just turned 40 last week and I totally understand how you feel. My life is not at all what I thought it would be and I am really struggling to make peace with that. I don’t have any words of wisdom to share but wanted to let you know you are not alone in feeling that way.

    I hope you enjoy your adorable cake!

  20. Lauren says:

    Wanting to wish you a happy birthday and a wonderful year ahead! I turned 37 in April and felt much of the same (add to that I’m single..). I wish more people were open about life not being quite what you thought it might be by certain points.

    I’ve struggled with treatment resistant depression since my teens. I started sprovato treatment a few months ago, and it’s made a tremendous difference for the better. It may be worth a consultation for you.

    Please feel free to reach out if you ever need to talk!

  21. Allison says:

    Happy Birthday, birthday twin.

    I’m turning 31… But wait, wasn’t I 25 two days ago? Oh, time! Anyways… I’m in the same boat as you. Making myself a little cake and dedicating the day to reflect, goal set, and plan. It’s the best gift I can give to myself. Hope your cake is lovely and your planning time provides some peace and clarity during this confusing, challenging time

    With love,

  22. TheLOOP says:

    As I look forward to turning 40 in a couple of months, I have realized that the first third of my life did not set me up for the remaining two-thirds. I can tick off all the goals on my list – career, relationship, kids, income security – and yet, I feel discontent. So I have decided to stop setting goals and try to practice more mindful living. So far, it’s tougher than I thought it would be.

  23. Mercedes says:

    Happy happy birthday to you Abra!!! Thank you for your wonderful blog and all the great content you put out there. 🙂

  24. Amanda says:

    Have a wonderful birthday! And whilst life isn’t where you planned it to be, you’ve got an amazing opportunity to take it where you’d like it to go (from a fellow 38 year old)

  25. Chelsea says:

    Happy birthday Abra! I can also relate to your post about milestones—for me, I think my identity has been so tied to career progression for so long that it is hard to separate the two, especially when I stumble professionally. But it sounds like you are doing everything right and I have no doubt this year will be great for you!

  26. Nancy Butler says:

    Happy birthday, Abra! It is true that the first quarter century can create a false sense that every stage of life will have lots of clear markers, goals and measurable successes. But the real work of life and deeper fulfillment often comes from such a personal place that successes in those ways may never even be visible to others. You are clearly doing so much to move toward what has deep meaning and value to you, and I promise you that even if you can’t always see it on a given day, you will look back and take the greatest joy and fulfillment from those things, large and small. I hope you find lots of ways to just have fun, celebrate staying sane through these last few months and laugh as much as possible over your birthday weekend. Thanks for the ongoing thread of information, inspiration and connection you have offered all of us for so many years—that is a huge gift and accomplishment you should feel so good about!????

  27. TheLOOP says:

    Happy birthday Abra! Have a wonderful day today.

  28. Tif says:

    Happy, Happy Birthday! Thank you for continuing this space – you continue to be a bright spot in my day. Here’s to brighter days ahead.

  29. Kristin says:

    Happy Birthday!!!

  30. Rebekah says:

    Longtime reader, first time commenter. I work in state government in Texas, specifically in behavioral health. Thank you for sharing this, being open.

    Stigma about behavioral health gets whittled away through a lot of efforts, including individuals talking about their personal experiences. Our own struggles are heavy, and I hope it’s some comfort that your sharing helps other people like you feel more comfortable being honest and, if it feels right, seeking help.

    Here’s to growth, here’s to you. Happy birthday!

  31. Dismal science says:

    Happy birthday!! I hope you enjoy the cake!

  32. Michelle says:

    Happy birthday, Abra! Thank you for sharing so much with us – proud to be part of this community you’ve created! I hope you have a wonderful day and a fulfilling year ahead of you.

  33. Kathleen Lisson says:

    Happy Birthday!

  34. kristen says:


    girl, i just have to say, STOP thinking about where you THOUGHT you’d be! acknowledge where you ARE and all the twisty difficult paths that brought you here and give thanks for that. then consider, is it what you want, where you want to be? what would you like to do differently?

    i turned 40 during quarantine, so i’m coming from old lady authority, lol!

    also, thanks for the podcast. i’m from nc and never heard of this one!

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