Generally speaking, I give no thought to birthdays. I have nothing against them, nor do I particularly care about having a special day. They are, however, a good time to stop and reflect about where we are in life, a time we have to reflect personally rather than big changes we share with others, e.g., graduations, new jobs, etc. Additionally, there are several reasons why this birthday stands out for me.
First, I am one of the few people I know who is excited to turn 30. I think I was ready to be 30 when I was about 10, so I finally feel my age. It is also happening as I begin a new job and the first one that could be a career if I wanted it to be. It is also a decade birthday, in which we tend to think back on the past decade and reflect.
My first thought upon reflection was, “what happened to a decade?!?!?!” After getting over the initial shock of realizing that it was ten years ago, not ten weeks ago, that I was living in a dorm at the University of Michigan, I have had some time to really think about what I have done this past decade and what I hope to do over the next one.
Briefly, my twenties went as follows: college, during which I studied abroad in France; teaching English in France; law school; learning to do yoga; working at the Pima County Superior Court; working at the Arizona Court of Appeals; becoming a yoga teacher; and getting an LLM in New Zealand. Of course there are other things, but those are the big highlights. I am struck by two things based upon that list: 1) I have been incredibly blessed, and 2) I have been fairly focused on myself.
Our society has a negative view of focusing too much on yourself. People who focus only on themselves can be seen as selfish and egotistical. One of the most difficult lessons, therefore, for me to learn from yoga was that we must take care of ourselves before we can be of service to others. We must feel secure in our own skins before trying to exist in this world, and we need to fill our own reserves, or we will have nothing left to offer others. As someone once said to me, "the heart pumps blood to itself first."
It was a difficult lesson to learn, but there is no question that I have spent a decade doing just that. All my travels, combined with the yoga, have taught me so much about who I am, what I value, and how I want to move forward. At times I felt too selfish, but deep down I knew I was preparing for something bigger and better. Interestingly, I ended up just where everyone seemed to think I would end up, but now I know I have done it on purpose rather than because someone said I should.
But what does this mean for the next ten years? It means that it is time to turn my focus to the external. This does not mean I plan to stop meditating, practicing, or even traveling; in fact those remain necessary for this next step. But it also means that it is time to use those reserves and all that information for the world. To be totally honest, I am a bit embarrassed by the list of my twenties. I feel like I could have done so much more for other people. But I also know that I can sit with people who have had to call the police on their own children or with drug addicts who have neglected their own children and feel sympathy and compassion without feeling like I have to run for my life. Some days are, of course, easier than others, but hopefully my ten years of selfish can lead to a decade of paying it forward.
And so I make this pledge in public. We all know that the best way to fulfill a promise is to ensure you are held accountable, and the best way to do that is to make it public.
Thirty seems so young and so quick, but also like a turning point. I have been incredibly blessed and have learned many lessons along the way. I know that going forward there will be days I choose myself over others, but I pledge to do it consciously and do it in order to ensure that I can be at my best when others need me. Perhaps this is one of the best ways yoga and the law intersect. It is through yoga that we strengthen our reserves to be of service to our clients and the world.
Thank you all for sharing this journey with me, for supporting me, and for holding me accountable. I hope this blog can be a piece of my living for others. I hope it provides you with some insights and ideas about yourselves and the world in which we live, and most especially about how to take the time for yourself to be at your best at all times. Many thanks, and hopefully many more celebrations together.
© Rebecca Stahl 2012, all rights reserved.