Friday, February 4, 2011

Day 326: Garden Freak Show

I left the hospital on Day 325 feeling overwhelmed with joy for Trish and her beautiful new family. I realize it's hard to feel anything but love for an adorable newborn and brand spanking new parents, but I was also prepared for Will's arrival to remind me of how far I haven't come in reaching the milestones I thought I'd reach by the time I turned 30 years old. But surprisingly, I felt none of that usual anxiety. I was ridiculously happy. Giddy, even.

Maybe it was the trip to Greece that had left me feeling relaxed, content, and void of any anxiety whatsoever, maybe I'd really come a long way in my 29th year, but on Day 325, I just felt happy. I felt grateful; both for Trish's life, and for mine. We're really great friends who have arrived at two completely different places in our lives, but for the first time I can remember, I didn't feel nervous that I wasn't where she was. My life hasn't exactly panned out the way I thought it would, but I'll have what Trish has eventually. Or I won't. But either way, it's all going to be okay. Everything is going to turn out exactly the way it's supposed to.

Yes, that was the feeling on Day 325.

And then, on Day 326, I freaked.

To tell you the truth, I'm not sure why. I know I, like most people, am physically and emotionally capable of working myself up over the minutest thing, but that's not what happened here. I was at work, innocently planning out the next few months when I realized that a mere six weekends remained until I turned the big 3-0. I started thinking about all of the specific things I still needed to do before my birthday (drive a stick shift, dye my hair, finish the blog) and all of the more abstract, less attainable things I also needed to accomplish (fall in love, get married, make $1 million, start a family). And within minutes, real, raw emotion started pouring out of me. Suddenly I became overwhelmed with worry and fear. I felt like I couldn't catch my breath, like someone was sitting on my chest.

On Day 326, the overwhelming thought of turning 30, and completing the goal that I set out to accomplish almost a year prior, became almost too much for me to bear.

I felt tears prick my eyes and I jumped up from my desk, determined not to cry at work (or at least not let anyone see me do it.) I ran to my friend Emily's desk, out of most people's sight.

"I just got really scared to turn 30," I squeaked out.

I realized how strange and ridiculous those words sounded as they were coming out of my mouth, and I almost laughed as I said them. I followed with, "It's so stupid."

And it was incredibly stupid.

I mean, what's there to be scared about? I knew that not a whole lot was really going to change on September 27th, the day of my 30th birthday. Life wasn't going to end. I wasn't going to drop dead. I wasn't going to look different, and much to my mother's dismay, act any differently when I turned 30. I planned on being the same immature, free-spirit that I was at 29.

Telling people that I'm 30, now that's something to get worked up about, and I knew when I had to do it for the first time, it would sting a little bit. But actually waking up on September 27th would likely be painless. I knew I could handle it. Why all the fuss? Why the drama?

The simple answer is, I don't know. Just like I want oatmeal one day for breakfast and scrambled eggs the next, how I feel about my life and where I am and what I have accomplished and haven't accomplished changes each day without any rhyme or reason. I try my best to be positive and level-headed, but the truth of the matter is, my uncertainty gets the best of me sometimes, and while I appear to others to have it together most of the time, on the inside, I'm a big old mess.

I got through the rest of Day 326 taking advice from one of the first bosses I ever had who said, "You gotta fake it till you make it." I put on a courageous, happy face and told myself that I was fine and that turning 30 is fine. People do it everyday, and I had to find a way to do it gracefully (and by "gracefully," I mean without crying at work.) A few deep breaths and a couple of walks around the office and I started to believe it.

Still, I needed a diversion. Emily had plans that night, so I called in for backup and emailed Melanie and Bug to see if they could do either of the two things that I usually use to help quell my anxiety: have a drink or exercise. Actually I went the exercise route first, asking if they wanted to take a walk through the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.

Bug was out, but Melanie was up for whatever. She pointed out that Thursday nights feature, "Cocktails in the Garden" at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, making them, "not really suited for working out."

"What's your goal?," Melanie asked me. Did I want to exercise? (Yes. Exercise is always a good thing.) Or do you want to drink? (Sure. Definitely. Always.)

My only goal was to rid myself of my sky-high anxiety and forget, if only for an evening, that I was six weeks from turning 30. So we headed to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens for Cocktails in the Garden, Day 326's thing I've never done before.

Atlanta's Botanical Gardens are adjacent to Piedmont Park downtown. We arrived right as the sun was going down, which was unfortunate, because we were able to see very little of the actual gardens before it got dark.

There were cocktails though, and that was my biggest concern anyway. Better than that, they were featuring specialty cocktails made with Sweet Tea flavored vodka, arguably the greatest thing to come out of South Carolina besides yours truly and Hootie & the Blowfish. The bartender was a bit heavy handed, which I also liked. We paid for our drinks and he sent us on our way.

Thanks to the darkness (and the whole camera/pictures fiasco), I can't tell you much about specific plants and flowers that we saw. The Botanical Gardens are certainly lit for nighttime, and there is an air of whimsy about the that I liked. There were pathways leading all around the grounds and it felt a little Alice in Wonderland to me since I had no idea where I was going or what was coming next.

We started our tour on a Canopy Walk 600-feet above the gardens that led us to a tunnel with mosaic art on the walls; we eventually arrived at a cascading fountain with big lit up palm trees. We purchased another beverage and then wandered through some of the gardens' greenhouses. As we moved in and out of rows of orchids that reminded me of Yaya and Greece, I could feel myself starting to relax.

Melanie and I took a seat on a bench in a gazebo overlooking the gardens with a glorious view of the Atlanta skyline in the background. We sipped our drinks, caught up on each other's lives and gossiped for at least an hour. I know I sound cliché when I say two liquor drinks and a walk through some gardens is all it takes to soothe my nervous energy, but in this case, both were a huge help. I felt so much better. Peaceful, even.

Isn't that what gardens are for? To bring people beauty and peace?

Sitting under the lights of Atlanta tucked away in the flowers of the gazebo, I felt small. And my impending birthday felt terribly inconsequential. The world will keep turning; flowers will die and bloom again. And all I can do is soak it all up, one day at a time. There are far bigger problems and triumphs going on around me. I knew that when the actual birthday came, I’d never be able to predict how I'd feel about it – I could cry, I could laugh, I’d probably do both.

But I would survive it.

And as long as there are flowers and sweet tea vodka, everything was going to be okay.


  1. I've never been the the Botanical Gardens but have always wanted to. Clearly after this post I have another reason, Sweet Tea Vodka.

  2. Hi Stephanie,
    My name is Karen Bonner and I visited Rose in Cumming 15 years ago and much of what she told me has come true. I would love to see her again but have lost her contact info. Could you please share it with me?