Turning 38 and leaving room for magic. | My birthday party at Chicago Magic Lounge in Andersonville.

Turning 38 and leaving room for magic.

I turned 38 over the weekend and it’s officially safe to say that I am in my “late thirties.”

At 37 I could still say mid-thirties and be, technically, OK, but there is no denying that 38 is no longer mid. 38 lands in a solidly late position.

Last year, turning 37, I wasn’t really into my birthday. I just wasn’t in a good place in my life and didn’t have any energy or desire to celebrate turning one more year closer to 40. I ended up choosing a bar close to home, thanking friends when they kept cancelling because I didn’t even want to be going out, then calling it an early night.

This year, turning 38, I’m not quite sure that anything in my life is different. I’m still in the same place with my career, my relationships, my money, my weight. I still feel stuck and not sure how to break free. I’m still not entirely happy.

But, I’m trying. And, maybe, I’m happier. I’m learning to live with the bad and to focus on the good and to push through the hard things and to work on the hard things and to have hope that, eventually, things will turn around.

Turning 38 and leaving room for magic. | My birthday party at Chicago Magic Lounge in Andersonville.

Since I didn’t feel like doing anything for my birthday last year I was determined, this year, to make up for it by planning, well, everything. My original plan was to go to Chicago Magic Lounge, this swanky magic club that opened in Andersonville less than a year ago. They have a main stage show, table-side magic, and even a magic bar.

I’d been wanting to go since it opened and figured my birthday was the perfect excuse to convince my friends to come with me. Of course, by the time I wrangled people into going, they were sold out for my birthday night. We still decided to go, though, just a night early.

Turning 38 and leaving room for magic. | How Houdini Died cocktail at my birthday party at Chicago Magic Lounge in Andersonville.

Because of my birthday magic show plans, my friends and I kept randomly singing songs about magic over the last few weeks: “Do you believe in Magic?” and “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” and “I’ve Got The Magic in Me” and so on. And I started joking that my birthday was going to be a kickoff to a year of magic. 38 was going to be a year of magic. A year where, maybe, anything is possible and things finally turn around.

And then in a completely separate conversation, while discussing New Year’s resolutions, another friend mentioned an article she found about Meghan Markle and how in 2016 she wrote that her New Year’s resolution was to “leave room for magic.” She said she wanted “to make my plans, and be okay if they sometimes break. To set my goals, but to be open to change.”

And, well, we all know how that turned out for her.

Turning 38 and leaving room for magic. | Magic at the bar at my birthday party at Chicago Magic Lounge in Andersonville.

I’m not sure about the year ahead or what 38 will bring. But it did start with literal magic.

The night before my birthday we got dinner at a bar and then went to Chicago Magic Lounge. We experienced table-side magic where a man made money come from my ears (I wish he could do that when rent is due) and a woman made a playing card change from beneath my palm. And then we sat back for a hilarious and incredible and AMAZING ✊ magic show where we kept thinking, “how the hell did he do that?” And then we stuck around for a glass of rosé some magic at the bar. And then we went down the block, braving the snow storm, to watch some drag queens and dance dance dance at Hamburger Mary’s.

I had really intended for it to be an early night. One cocktail. Some magic. Bed. But five cocktails and hours later, plans had obviously changed.

And then because, obviously, I still had to do something on my actual birthday, I went out the next night to Parson’s Chicken and Fish where I ate fried chicken and mashed potatoes and cheese curd fritters and then spent the rest of the night drinking Moscow Mules out of soup cans and alcoholic mint shakes at my favorite fancy cocktail bar in the city, Best Intentions. And so many of my friends from so many different areas of my life came out to celebrate with me.

I can’t remember the last time I felt that happy. I can’t remember the last time I spent so much time out not just wanting to go back home and crawl into bed. I can’t remember the last time I spent so much time out not worrying about what I should be doing instead.

So maybe nothing in the last year has changed about my career or my relationships or my finances or my weight. But I think things are starting to change.

And I’m more ready than ever to embrace the magic.


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Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

1 Comment
  • Jen Plecki
    January 21, 2019at11:50 am

    I’m so happy to hear you’re starting to feel better! Glad you had a fabulous birthday!

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