Birthday Baggage

Today marks the 28th year of my being on this planet. It’s an incredible thing to think about. For me personally, birthdays bring up a lot of mixed emotions. The day we were born is supposed to be a reason to celebrate each year, but I haven’t felt much like it’s anything to celebrate since I turned 18. As a kid, birthdays are exciting. You get a whole day filled with attention and presents, then as a teenager you even gain more independence and rights as a human being. At 15 you get a permit, at 16 a driver’s license, at 18 you get to vote and (when I was 18) smoke cigarettes, and I suppose at 21 you are allowed to drink. However, I had already been drinking for so many years before that, it didn’t really matter. If anything it just took some of the fun out of it.

Yet even as a child, I was never one to wish I was “grown up.” I always knew that childhood was something magical and precious, something to cherish. I never wanted to grow up. After gaining my independence at 18, I honestly wished that I could prevent time from moving any further forward. I had no concept of what the future would look like for me, and that hasn’t changed with all the years that have passed since then. It still feels surreal that I’ve made it this far. As a severely depressed teenager, you don’t really spend a lot of time imagining a future for yourself. I definitely never even considered a life for myself after 21.

While I am incredibly grateful that I’ve been given such an amazing life thus far, birthdays always remind me that my time here is limited. On my birthday, when I look in the mirror all I see is a youth that is slowly waning and that will soon be gone all together. Not only does it remind me of the physical deterioration and death we all have to face one day, but it also makes me feel like I have lost that much more value as a woman. My boyfriend said last night he comforts himself about aging by imagining himself one more year wiser. That may be well and good for him, but a woman’s wisdom holds much less significance than her youth and beauty unfortunately. Obviously, I’m not saying that this is right or that I agree with these statements and value judgements. Still, I do believe that this is the harsh reality that women face in our society.

Despite believing I am an incredible human being who is smart and funny and unique, I don’t delude myself into thinking I’ve gotten this far in life on those qualities alone. I fully believe I wouldn’t have been selected for my current job had I not made such a good impression at an earlier date while interviewing for a different position with my organization. My boss may not even be consciously aware of it himself, but I guarantee my appearance had a lot to do with him reaching out to me when a new job opened up.

Maiden, mother, and crone. These are the three stages of a woman’s life, at least in the eyes of the male dominated world. And I don’t really know where I fit in that cycle anymore. All but the maiden sound abhorrent to me. Although I’m pretty sure I’m getting a bit old to consider myself a maiden, I will never be a mother (nor would I want to be), and I sure as hell am not looking forward to being considered an old crone. As I drift farther and farther away from the freshness of youth, I can’t help but wonder fearfully when the world will begin to look at me and treat me differently. How many years do I have left before I am pushed to the side, discarded, and forgotten? It’s a sobering thought that prevents me from really feeling much like celebrating on my birthday.

On the other hand, I am proud of the life I’ve led up to this point. I am humbled and grateful for the unbelievable good fortune I have been blessed with for so many years. I am also endlessly baffled by the concept of time. I look back at my high school memories with fascination, unable to believe they are already ten years behind me. Yet at the same time, moments that once seemed so sharp and crucial in my memory have now begun to blur and fade together into a vague feeling, as if those things never really happened to me, but someone else instead. I feel even more removed from my childhood memories, as if they are just some stories I read a long time ago. It’s strange to think that some day even my current life will feel like something peculiar and foreign.

I suppose my birthday is just another opportunity for me to practice being grateful for what I have without becoming overly concerned with the fact that I will surely not have it forever. To a certain extend, that’s what gratitude is all about. There wouldn’t be much cause to feel grateful for something that was guaranteed and never changing. The transient nature of life is what makes it so precious. No matter what the future may hold for me, I have already been given more than I could have ever asked for, and that’s what is most important. That will be my heart’s mantra today as it continues to beat for me without rest even into it’s 28th year of faithful service. That miracle alone is something to be grateful for.

Happy Birthday to Me Quotes - Happy Birthday to Me From Me

Valentine’s Day

I have had a strange history with Valentine’s Day. For most of my life I was indifferent to it. I did enjoy creating those boxes in class and receiving cards and cookies. Thankfully when I was young, everyone was required to make a card for everyone else. I’m still horrified at the idea that there was a time when unpopular little kids were left empty handed with only the feeling of utter rejection and isolation on this “day of love.”

As I got older, I grew to detest it. I still don’t know if it was just the corniness and commercialism or if it was an attempt to distance myself from the fact that I never had anyone to share my love with. Whatever the reason that began this feeling though, it continued even into the years when I did have a boyfriend. I remember the first year we were together and he bought me a giant bouquet of flowers and had it sent to my classroom. I was humiliated. Red from ear to ear. I had to carry that embarrassing thing around with me the rest of the day. Of course, as far as he ever knew, I loved it.

By our next Valentine’s Day he knew me much better. Instead of a showy display, he got me a box of gourmet vegan chocolates, paid his mother to leave so we’d have the house to ourselves for the night, and presented me with five hits of acid and some ketamine. (I had recently gotten my wisdom teeth removed and raved about how much I enjoyed the laughing gas. He said ketamine was the closest street drug he could find as far as effects go.) To this day, I count that Valentine’s Day among one of the best days of my life.

It is hard to believe that was six or seven years ago now. So much has changed and yet, nothing has. In the years since then, I’ve celebrated Valentine’s Day as my cat’s birthday. (The acid that night inspired me to adopt her. I even named her Lucy.) And I guess that’s just one of the tricky parts about life. The good and the bad are so many thread inextricably woven into the same cloth. To trace along one, you inevitably stumble across the other as well. These precious memories of mine are, for the most part, too painful to recall. What a cruel joke of memory that the past can be soured by the present.

Maybe it is just an art I need to practice more, accepting and honoring those twinges of pain that impinge upon my happy nostalgia. There is beauty and growth that blooms from pain. When you look at a flower garden, you don’t often focus on the filth and rot and decay that has fertilized the soil. The longer I live, the more I come to understand that life is all about focus. It is a blessing to realize this and the fact that attention is a muscle that I can train with practice.

As for today, I will wrap myself in gratitude. Things are not perfect. They have not gone exactly as I would have liked. But so much unexpected beauty and love has come to me regardless. Lucy has truly brought me all the love and joy that a first child should. We know one another, love one another, and have grown with one another. She has been by my side through some of the darkest times in my life. She has been my strength and my purpose when I had nothing else to get me out of bed in the morning.

Today I choose to focus on that marvelous, miraculous bond we share. Today is a day of love. I have all of the love I could ever want or need from Lucy and her sister Sybil. We are a family that transcends species and language through unconditional love. And that is truly something to celebrate.

Happy Birthday

I am 27 years old today. I genuinely never thought I’d get this far. Each year that passes just gets more and more surreal. I remember thinking 30 was pretty old, but I’m almost there and I still feel as young as ever. For a long time now, I haven’t enjoyed celebrating my birthday. If I could, I’d let it go by unnoticed by coworkers and acquaintances. This day always made me feel sad, afraid.

I want to change that this year. A birthday is just another opportunity to choose. I can focus on the fact that I’m getting older, getting closer to the inevitable end that awaits all of us, or I can focus on being grateful. After all, I was never guaranteed a place in this world. A birthday is a time to reflect on just how lucky we are to have been born, the sheer improbability of our existence, the amazing fact that we’ve managed to make it this far. I have had 27 beautiful years on this earth. What a miracle. I am so grateful to exist.

Yesterday by pure serendipity I ended up at my mom’s house looking over things in my old bedroom. It was so touching and bittersweet. How lovely it is to look back. I’ve led an absolutely splendid life. I have been so fortunate. No matter what the future holds. I will always have those memories. I won’t forget how my life has been so abundant already. I won’t take for granted all the opportunities I’ve had to love and to be loved in return. Today I give thanks to the universe. Thank you for twenty-seven years

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