Some years symbolize turmoil while others mark milestone achievements. And still, others fly under the radar, passing without a whisper of attention.
Equipped with a driver’s license, a flexible serving gig and endless sunny afternoons lying on the beach (or in a boat), I’d put the summer of 17 on repeat any day. The late-to-bed, late-to-rise mantra was my anthem, a joyful soundtrack to highlight my first sliver of freedom.
But the summer I’d always remember was soon followed by a winter I’d hope to forget.
Straight out of the storybook of a senior’s worst nightmare, I had knee surgery halfway through basketball season and attended physical therapy for months to come. Eventually moving from a wheelchair to crutches, the recovery tested the real strength of a girl about to leave the nest.
Twenty was stitched together by the drama of four college roommates, off-pitch Hump Day karaoke and degrees that came second to socializing. We were wild, free — and borderline reckless — but seemingly undefined without each other.
Flash forward to 22 – days stained by heavy grief, sharing a should-have-been birthday celebration with the attendees of Grandpa’s funeral. Promising him years earlier I’d deliver the eulogy, when the day arrived I was… helpless. I couldn’t get past the thought of sharing my birthday with the reminder of a relationship cut short.
After a couple years navigating rough terrain, I dubbed 24 as “the year of travel.” Sitting on the plane, I asked myself what it felt like and wrote:
24 is being independent.
It's paying your taxes,
Taking trips you can't afford.
Realizing roommates and shared expense isn't embarrassing, it's smart.
It's celebrating friendships, love and new life.
24 is laughing in the face of all your fears
And taking two steps back before moving forward.
24 is having your whole life ahead of you and consciously choosing what to do with it.
It's taking the wisdom from those who went before you to make the best of what you have.
24 is being stuck in limbo – a limbo you'll likely wish to revisit 10 years from now.
It’s knowing what you've been through and being thankful for the time you’ve been given.
For we never know if 25 will come.
With no expectations whatsoever, 26 hit me by surprise.
It meant leaving journalism for marketing and narrowing the hour and a half gap between my boyfriend of eight years. Grinning, I recall the temporary tears wasted on the impossibly difficult decision between the job offer I’d received and the one I gambled whether or not to leave.
Like many others, when it came time, I closed my eyes and leapt. The flight was terrifying as I got the hang of it, but soon I was soaring with no one and nothing to stop me (or kill the freeing feeling I’d always longed for as an adult).
Throughout the process, I braced myself and attempted to curb my joy. I held my breath, waiting to scrape the treetops or get caught in tempermental weather… but never did. In fact, I walked out of 26 with my soul on fire, energy to burn and kindness to spread to all of those trudging through the muck clinging to my old shoes.
Gracefully gliding into 27, I’m writing down my wildest goals and fantasizing about my dreams – all while challenging myself to just be... still.
You see, when we glance back on the years we’ve lived, we might wince with pain or shiver with excitement. But if we squint hard enough, we siphon essential themes and monumental lessons.
What about the coming year? Will we chalk it up as a loss or treasure the memories it holds for birthdays to come? Better yet, what change, stride or leap will we mindfully make today to change our tomorrow – for the better – forever?
Undoubtedly, 27 will hold secrets of sadness, strife and sensations of joy that are yet to be explained. Birthdays are for celebrating the fear we’ve faced while cultivating compassion for ourselves and others. (At least mine are.)
Expectations? I have little stored for 27. It’s message has yet to be distilled. Until I strain its pearls, it will be life at 20-something.