It’s birthday week here at the Left/Right. That’s right, our birthdays are three days apart on the calendar, Kelsey’s on the 25th (Golden birthday for sister! Yaaaaay!) and mine on the 28th. We’re celebrating together in Nashville this year with lots of great food, factory tours (Yazoo Brewery and Olive and Sinclair Chocolate), kitten visits at The Cat Shoppe, cake, and Netflix. Good times, ahoy!
I don’t know about you, but I tend to drift toward the nostalgic and turn more introspective around birthday time. I think about where I was on my best birthdays (hard to pick, but the surprise scavenger hunt in college was memorable) and worst (alone in my apartment during a tornado warning in Savannah). I consider the year I’ve spent (not terribly eventful) and how I’d like to spend the next one (making positive changes in health and career). I’m leaving my golden birthday and entering the last year of my twenties, which is scary and exciting.
Yes, I did use the word scary to describe my birthday. Like most people, I have things I wish could have accomplished by now. I worry about the future. I’m not immune to the “What am I doing with my life?!” sense of unease. However, I love birthdays. Love them. I don’t understand people that aren’t excited about them. Are you one of those people? Let me share my birthday joy with you.
I love that we celebrate growing older. Some people are uncomfortable with days where they’re the center of attention and think it’s selfish to celebrate yourself. I don’t agree. The world is a dangerous place, and you should enjoy the life you’re given and the amount of time you get to spend with the people/places/things you love. I know I may sound preachy, but so many people don’t get to grow old. Be proud of your age. Plus, you can celebrate your birthday however you want – ask for donations to charity instead of presents, sit home alone and enjoy a day of nothing, have a blowout party with everyone you know, or spend time with friends and family. It’s the attitude of, “Yay! Another year!” that is mandatory.
I also feel like I get to know myself better and (for the most part) like myself more with each passing year. I don’t mean this in a narcissistic, “I’m awesome” sort of way. Self-discovery is important. I still remember feeling not myself in middle and high school, because I didn’t yet understand who I was. Those awkward growth years are tough on everyone, as I’ve yet to meet a person that came out of the womb self-actualized and ready to live life to the fullest. It’s true that some people achieve that awareness and self-love earlier than others. Just look at those people who only ever have one career in mind. Like, you knew you wanted to be an OBGYN from birth? I don’t understand you, but congrats?
For me, it’s been a longer journey, but, as I’m the only person I’ll be with every day for my entire life, I’m glad I’m continually moving toward self-love. At 29, I’m more comfortable with who I am – the space I take up, the beliefs I hold – than ever. My industrial strength thought filter that keeps me from speaking my mind is growing weaker with each passing year. At this rate, the 70 year old me will wander around talking about nothing but politics, religion and money. It’s kind of exciting.
More than anything, I’m trying to be happy where I am in my life. I listen to people talk about how they wish they had their body from years before or they wish they’d gotten married earlier/later or their career path was gnarled and scary. Well, I’m sure we all have stuff like that. There’s no use wishing I could be young(er). I don’t have a crystal ball to let me know where I’ll end up. It’s not an easy thing to do, but I hope to practice being present in my life – my life right now, not 5 years ago or 10 years in the future.
I’ll stop babbling and end with this great bit of wisdom Kelsey found in Relevant Magazine (which can be churchy, but this is pretty universal advice). Let’s all print it off and keep it on the inspiration board above our desks as we work toward a happy, healthy year. (I’m not kidding.)
This is the thing: When you hit 28 or 30, everything begins to divide. You can see very clearly two kinds of people. On one side, people who have used their 20s to learn and grow, to find … themselves and their dreams, people who know what works and what doesn’t, who have pushed through to become real live adults. Then there’s the other kind, who are hanging onto college, or high school even, with all their might. They’ve stayed in jobs they hate, because they’re too scared to get another one. They’ve stayed with men or women who are good but not great, because they don’t want to be lonely. … they mean to develop intimate friendships, they mean to stop drinking like life is one big frat party. But they don’t do those things, so they live in an extended adolescence, no closer to adulthood than when they graduated.
Don’t be like that. Don’t get stuck. Move, travel, take a class, take a risk. There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming. Don’t lose yourself at happy hour, but don’t lose yourself on the corporate ladder either. Stop every once in a while and go out to coffee or climb in bed with your journal.
Ask yourself some good questions like: “Am I proud of the life I’m living? What have I tried this month? … Do the people I’m spending time with give me life, or make me feel small? Is there any brokenness in my life that’s keeping me from moving forward?”
Now is your time. Walk closely with people you love, and with people who believe life is a grand adventure. Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t try to fast-forward yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned. Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep traveling honestly along life’s path.