Reflections on Turning 30

In just a few days I will be turning 30. 30!!!! I can't believe I am going to be that old. Not that I think 30 is old, per se, but I can't believe that Becky Avery Youkstetter will be 30 years old.

My little sister Aly just turned 15. She is 1/2 my age. It seems just like yesterday that I was 15, starting high school and already knowing that "I am going to marry Jason Rhead." That was half a lifetime ago and it blows my mind.

I have only a few more days of being 29. It's funny because my stepmom Terrie used to tell everyone that she was 29 when people asked her how old she was. I used to laugh at this as a little girl and would think, "Why would you tell people you are 29? That is SO OLD!" Being a kid was just so much fun.

Now here I am on the cusp of 30 and I feel, well, odd. And truthfully a bit scared.

I've been thinking a lot about my life in anticipation of this rather "large" birthday. I reflect on how much I have changed the last 10 years of my life.

The 20-year-old me would never believe that in 10 years I would be divorced and remarried, no longer a practicing member of the LDS church, would have no children and have a thriving non-profit career. The 20-year-old me would be shocked to hear that I am no longer a conservative but a raging Liberal!

I fully expected to be married to Jason, with at least 3 kids by now. I expected to not be working but being a stay at home mom instead. I thought I would still be active in the church and maybe serving in young womens.

My goodness how times have changed.

I never could have imagined that I would be where I am today. I still can't believe I am here.

My life consists of a loving and nurturing relationship with my sweet husband Seth. While things with us are far from perfect I feel so lucky to be with him. He's my best friend and the reason I look forward to going home at night. I can go home each night, eat dinner, watch "Dexter" and fall asleep next to Seth and be completely happy.

My life consists of my wonderful career. Each morning I wake up happy and excited to work. I wake up earlier than I need to. I get ready, make my coffee (another shock to my 20-year-old self) make my way happily to the office. While at work I am mentally challenged and fulfilled. I laugh, discuss current events and work with a phenominal team.

My life consists of my family. These last 10 years I have added the Youkstetters to my family and I realize every day how lucky I am to be a part of them. I feel just as much at home with them as I do with my own family.

My relationship with my family has also deepened. The support I received from them through the last 10 years of transition has been immeasurable. We aren't perfect but we are honest with each other and I am so grateful for that.

My life consists of my friends. Friends that I can call up to grab some delicious food. Friends that I can gather on Monday night's to watch terrible reality TV. Friends that I can still convince to take days off work to go to Disneyland. Friends that I know I can be completely honest with about my dreams and fears. I am so lucky to have so many I am close to.

Who I am has changed dramatically the last 10 years. I'm no longer a meager 118 pounds. I have to watch what I eat, I have to exercise to stay thin. I STILL have issues with acne! Seriously, I used to dream of turning 30 so that I wouldn't have to think about zits anymore.

I still worry what people think of me at times and I think constantly about being rejected. Deep down all I really want is to be loved unconditionally and accepted for who I am.

I guess some things never change.

For my birthday Seth wants to take me to Cedar Pointe. It's an amusement park in Ohio with some of the best roller coasters in the country. Sadly it isn't open in February so hopefully we can make our way there in the Spring.

One of Seth's favorite artists is David Wilcox. He sings a song about turning 30... see below.

Say good-bye to your twenties
Tomorrow is the "Big 3-0"
For my birthday present
I've got a place where we can go
It's a lesson in motion
To ride the wildest ride
We're gonna climb to the top of the roller coaster
And look down the other side

So let me ride in the front car
And you ride right behind
And I'll click my snapshot camera
At exactly the right time
Shoot back over my shoulder
Catch the fear no one can hide
When we tip the top of the roller coaster
And look down the other side
Over the hill

So when the prints come back
We can look at that unmistakable birthday fear
Like your younger days are over now
And its all down hill from here

I'm not sure if it's all downhill from here. I suppose in a lot of ways it is. I feel more confident in who I am. I no longer have guilt or fear associated with no longer being active in the church. I feel intelligent and informed. I feel more comfortable in my own skin. I don't have to worry about choosing a career, going to school, dating and settling down with someone. Those decisions are done. I know who I am and what I want to do. In that regard it is downhill from here.

It's hard to know what the next ten years will bring. Hopefully a family of my own. Hopefully continued satisfaction in my relationships and my line of work. Hopefully more confidence in me. Hopefully fulfillment and happiness.

Here's hoping.

February 12th

My lovely friend Meili gave me the heads up about the 12x12 project. Basically you document the 12th day of every month, with 12 photos of that day. I didn't jump on the bandwagon in time to do January but here is a day in "My Life as a Youkstetter: February Edition!"

1. Ding Dongs - these lovely treats played a large role today. We stuffed them in the pockets of our snow gear to have as snacks while snowmobiling. Clearly I couldn't resist because I ate mine before we even got the the starting place of our snowmobile adventure.

2. Maggie - I love Maggie. This is my favorite part of Maggie, her laugh. Not sure what the joke was about but it may have to do with "Glenn" (see picture 9)

3. Seth - he looks hot in this picture. For an hour or more he was trying to get the damn snowmobiles to start, which they never did. Snowmobiling FAIL!

4. Fake riding pose - because we never got the snowmobiles started Dawn and I figured we would pose and pretend we had an awesome time!

5. Ruperts is our favorite restaurant in McCall. We had a fancy dinner our last night there. This is where I had Valentine's Dinner last year too. Funny how that happens.

6. Seth ordered crab legs for an appetizer. I am not sure it was worth the effort to eat.

7. While waiting for our check I did what I do best: animal drawing (on the back of our bill). Any guesses what this one is?

8. Bikini - McCall in the winter means hot tubbing. Hot. Me in a bikini - not so hot.

9. A large part of my weekend was Glenn- the world's biggest zit. I decided to name him, and had to pick a name of an annoying person. I'm sure you can guess my inspiration! We joked that Glenn was Maggie's date for the weekend since her boyfriend couldn't come and she was a 5th wheel. Glenn is still around but far less annoying.

10. Trivial Pursuit - how many of you have ever finished an entire game of Trivial Pursuit? We did - three times over the weekend. It's a miracle! I even won once!

11. Snow sculptures - McCall has a winter Festival and the city is taken over by amazing snow sculptures. This is clearly a train.

12. Gold mining sculpture - Love seth!

Until March.....

Blissful Ignorance?

Last week I went and saw a Sundance film called "Circumstance."

This film won the Sundance award for best drama at this year's film festival. As I fully expected, I received a call from my movie buff friend Sean inviting Seth and I to attend. Sundance is hit and miss for me but if it is a "best of fest" film then I know it's worth the cold trek downtown.

"Circumstance" was a beautiful film about two Iranian teenagers trying to live within a very stifled life in Tehran. I won't go into a lot of detail but as beautiful as the film was it was equally sad and very difficult to watch. The film painted a very dark picture of life in Iran and how difficult it can be for women in particular. There were scenes of abuse, mistreatment, rape and incidents with a "corrupt" government.

Following the movie I wasn't sure what to think of it. I knew I enjoyed it, I knew I was glad that I saw it, but at the same time I felt a deep sadness. I have a stunning coworker that is from Iran. She has lived in the states for just over 10 years now. She actually looks much like the girl on the right in the picture above. She and I have had several conversations of her life there. We have laughed at how little Americans know of her homeland. She has told me stories of college classmates asking her where she is from and promptly responding "Where is Iran?" upon her answer. Where is Iran? Seriously? That country nearly as big as Saudi Arabia in the Middle Ease people! Here's a map for those of you who may not know exactly where it is. Ha -

People have asked her how she communicates with her family and friends there. They are shocked they have cell phones and ...! How little we know of the Middle East. It's unfortunate that we have a very narrow view of the region. I think many of us have visions of terrorists, camels, desert landscapes and poverty. We forget that there are bustling cities, text messaging, Facebook (although in Iran it is banned so they have had to find a way around the government to have access), movies, music and Twitter. We tend to forget that the people aren't so different from us. Teenagers rebel, people fall in and out of love, people attend church, people sing and dance and even have snowball fights (yes they even have ski resorts in Iran).

One of the things that I appreciated about this movie was that it seemed to give me a bit more perspective about a country and a region that I find myself judging far too often. Seth and I talked for nearly an hour after the movie. We talked about democracy, freedom, history and of the many issues that plague the Middle East. It was hard to watch, it was painful at times. I am sure there are a lot of people that would never want to see a movie that dealt with rape, homosexuality, drugs and misogyny. However I am not one of those people. The understanding and empathy that I felt for Iranians following that movie far surpassed the uncomfortable feelings I felt while watching it.

I haven't been able to shake the thought I have had about this movie for a week now. It got me to thinking...and I couldn't help but wonder:

Does ignorance truly equal bliss?

I have come to the conclusion that in many cases, sure, ignorance is bliss. I mean really. If I had no idea that Iran mistreated their women, or had "morality police" or forced their young students to say "Death to Israel, death to America" each morning, maybe my life would be better.

If we had no concept of AIDS and how it is ruining countless lives of people in Africa wouldn't we sleep better at night?

We can do our best to shelter our lives and the lives of our children so that they and we are ignorant of what is happening in the world around them. Hopefully that will keep us happy right? Or we can choose to expose ourselves to the horrors that exist. Why? For one thing, a little perspective.

Today I was livid. I was livid because Seth and I were cheated out of $2,000 that we were promised. But when I take a step back and look at this beautiful home I am sitting in, while typing on this lovely laptop, with a loving husband asleep in the next room, I realize how lucky I am. I have the freedom of speech so I can write what I want on my blog. I married a man for love not for the advancement of my family. I can work and make have a living as a successful woman in this country. "Circumstance" made me realize how lucky I am to live in America. It made me grateful for my freedom. Truthfully I am not grateful enough. I am not a person that will easily admit "America is the best country in the world." I still don't know if I think it is the best but I do know it is a damn amazing place and I am fortunate to live here. So thanks "Circumstance" for reminding me of that. I am told that I need to be grateful to live here nearly daily but sometimes it takes seeing a painful movie to really feel it.

Why else avoid ignorance? To change what needs to be changed.

It wasn't too long ago when beating your children was considered a private/family matter. It was something that went on in homes and no one was willing to admit it or say anything. We chose to be ignorant. In fact, we had established laws that protected animals in our country before we had laws that protected children. If we all remained ignorant of what is happening around us we could never work together to change those terrible things. It makes us donate to charity that fights AIDS, it makes us pick up the phone to report a neighbor we suspect is abusing their children, it helps us liberate countries.

Ignorance does not breed understanding either. How can you understand that a homosexual couple can raise a healthy child if you don't know anyone that is gay? How can you make a statement about a public policy issue if you refuse to hear what the opposite side of your political party is saying? How can you teach your children not to be racist if you have no friends with an opposite skin color? I think being more open minded is healthy for our society. I know I am guilty of this, we all are to some degree. But I do try to keep an open mind.

Another reason I choose to avoid ignorance: gratitude. I can list a whole slew of movies that I never want to see again, but ones that I am so glad I did see. You know the ones, "Saving Private Ryan" - thank you for showing me the horrors of WWII and helping me feel complete gratitude for our veterans. Thank you "Schindlers List" for reminding me how horrifying the Holocaust was so that we can ensure it doesn't happen again. Thank you for reminding me how substantial one person is and how my life can really impact many other lives for good.

So there you have it. I choose to be informed so that I can avoid being ignorant. I choose to see the movies with difficult scenes and read news stories with painful messages, because it brings me more understanding, hope, a desire to change and gratitude.

However I will say that there are some things I am happy to be ignorant about: Ke$ha, NASCAR, Howard Stern and the "Saw" movies. I suppose there are many times where blissful ignorance sounds just fine to me.