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  • Writer's pictureJulie Ratinoff

Recovering My Lost Self

Yesterday marked my 45th birthday and nothing quite says middle-aged than being officially in your mid-40’s. But I'm ok with that. In fact I'm excited to be here and embrace the wisdom that has come with the life experience and numerous battle scars.

There are no tips or hints in this post, just a heartfelt story of how a year ago, I went from feeling lost and broken, and then took a spontaneous risk in order to find myself.

It's a story that you may recognize in yourself or someone you love, because at the core, it is a story about the human condition and the recovery of oneself.

Generally, I become emotionally triggered on my birthday or leading up to it. I’m not entirely sure of the true source and it never shows up quite the same. Maybe it has something to do with being a single mom and the smidge of loneliness that can set in at times, or maybe it’s a little bit of wounding from being in a marriage that never quite allowed for the honoring me on this day.

Either way, it has been my mission to break this pattern and truly allow myself to self-care and do something to celebrate the day on my terms, breaking the cycle of expectation and disappointment.

A year ago today (well technically yesterday), I gave myself the most amazing, spectacular, nurturing gift and embarked on a very spontaneous journey to Bali. I had been wanting to go for years and told myself it would be a post-graduation present.

But when that time rolled around, I couldn’t logically justify the expense, while barely earning money as a fresh grad and not to mention the newly added crippling student loan debt.

At the time I was floundering, not entirely sure what I wanted to do with my new psychology and counseling degree. Grad school had broken me wide open, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I was lost, burnt-out and if I’m being honest, I was without clear direction. When my dear friend had to cancel our plans on my birthday to attend a funeral, I knew I needed to act fast to avoid feeling the familiar disconnection that would most likely send me into a downward spiral.

As I was mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, I came across a post from an old acquaintance offering a last minute spot in a week long retreat in Bali, in one week. Oh how amazing that would be, I fantasized. But yeah right, I couldn’t just run away to the other side of the planet in a week…could I?

In beautiful synchronistic flow, the pieces fell together and I made the most impromptu, potentially insane decision to take this leap. I quickly solidified home details such as getting a pet sitter, making sure the girls had rides to where they needed to be during the week, finding a very reasonable flight, and taking care of the many other minute details that needed to happen, including freaking out a little.

Before I knew it, I was off on a 29 hour flight the evening of my 44th birthday. It was hard to say goodbye to my girls on such a last minute trip, but I knew I needed to end the cycle and truly nurture myself in order to return refreshed, renewed and excited to be on my path again.

As I reflect back on this time, I was truly sinking. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but something needed to shift. I hadn’t traveled to an unknown country in over 20 years, let alone by myself. I was terrified, thrilled, curious, excited and a multitude of other contradictory emotions.

As I stepped off the plane in Bali in a jet-lagged exhausted fog, something familiar began to engulf me. It took me a day to recognize it, but it was me; my true essence slowly returning to my tired, ragged and lost body. I began to remember who I was. The 20 year-old adventurous part of my soul had returned home. She had been lost through so many years of parenthood, divorce and all of the other events of life that happen, allowing us to easily lose who we are.

I see you. I remember you. It was the woman who loves the unpredictability of travel into the unknown- experiencing a new culture, and the bravery of taking a risk to visit a new place and explore.

The week I spent there healing, connecting and rejuvenating my soul was the best gift I could give myself. Was it a ridiculously long trip to only spend a week? Probably. Was it irresponsible to leave my family so suddenly? Possibly. But what returned was a newly re-empowered mom, who had begin to pick up the pieces of lost self.

While this type of travel is not for everyone, I did recognize it as a significant part of me. I never feel more like myself than when I am traveling. A part of me loves being at home, safe, secure and with my two amazing daughters, and the other part needs this, appreciates it-craves it. I recognize there must be a balance between both, because I would miss one without the other.

I believe that life is full of mid-life crises. I feel like I had one early at age 30 when I ended my marriage, and perhaps again at 40, when I decided to go back to grad school. The lesson in these “crises” is that something is not serving you in the moment. It’s not about completely uprooting your life and dating a 20 year-old, although it certainly can be. It’s about remembering who you are or how you need to shift to support your ever evolving soul.

As my birthday approached this year, I noticed that I did not start feeling the emotional dread that normally accompanies it. I had broken the cycle. I looked forward to the day with no expectation other than to NOT work, get my free pumpkin spice birthday latte and give myself some sort of pampering. The rest, I decided to leave up to the universe.

And the day was a perfect combination of spending time with family and my oldest, dearest friend, a little rest, a small adventure and some pampering/relaxation, and of course the latte. Little bits of old wounding popped up here and there, but the voice that used to be so incredibly loud was only a mere whisper. I was able to watch it, and let it go with no attachment.

Healing takes time, so I have no expectations of how things will look, but this feels like a very powerful new beginning. So all I have to say at this point is bring it 45, let’s see what you have to offer!


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