Today is my birthday. I am turning 23.
I usually make a big song and dance out of this day (aside from Christmas, uh, what day could be more important?) but something in me feels unfamiliarly gloomy about the whole deal this year.
You might say, you’re 23, shut up and get drunk (which I probably will do anyways, thank you), but I can’t help feeling like this year has blown past me like the smoke from my birthday cake, opaque memories billowing around my face, there for a moment, but almost immediately dissolved into the stillness of the present where I stand here, once again the birthday girl, with a whole new year that needs tending to.
I supposed it’s natural to feel reflective on your birthday, and a lot of things have happened in the last three hundred and sixty five days: I’ve flown the nest (as they say), learned how to clean a toilet bowl (never again), watched some of my best friends scatter around the world, come to terms with the word “utilities,” gotten my first “big girl” job doing something I love and spent a lot of time hanging out here, on this blog, with you.
I’ve revived my love of platform shoes (an affair that began in second grade with my trendsetting Sketchers, platform sneakers); exercised patience; started taking vitamins (old age will do that to you); grown to understand my parents more; appreciated my Grandparents more; felt more grateful for the depth and authenticity of my friendships; become a connoisseur of cheap pinot noir.
And I’ve, for the first time, felt myself change. Not from what I was, to something new, but from myself to a further version of myself. I’ve seen interests that always existed blossom into full-blown hobbies, and jobs.
And it’s not that these things never happened in the past, it’s not that I’ve never evolved before… it’s that I’d never noticed it in myself.
Someone told me in college that you will change more from twenty to thirty than you previously had in your whole life. I was highly skeptical when I heard this (as I am whenever I hear a quote that begins with, “trust me”) but I’m beginning to accept this statement.
There’s a cold, overwhelming, invigorating feeling that comes with complete independence; separation from what everyone else in your sorority is doing; removal of the constant opinion of your family; an end to the comfortable and familiar cycle of measuring the years by your school calendar.
All the barometers of success, acceptance, expectation, and even fun are immediately unhinged and centered on you, as an individual. Of course important relationships will always influence your decisions and remain a thread in the sweater of your life, but the freedom to pursue your oddest passions, to wear whatever the hell you please, to eat as much of one food (macaroni and cheese…) as you damn well want… it’s all suddenly there.
A lot of heavy, gloomy things come with aging: deaths, mortgages, broken relationships, heartbreak.
But aging also brings about a unique sense of freedom. Freedom to develop and be your true self, confidence to be your true self, and the power to take on all of the heavy things with the grounding of experience and (sometimes) a little wisdom.
I don’t happen to think I’m particularly wise at 23, or that I’m so mature that I’ll start using cocktail napkins at the bar, but I do feel a changed sense of self and awareness this year.
So (aside from what I’m wearing tonight...obviously) there’s what I’m thinking about today on my birthday.