There was something bright and shiny about turning 30. There may have been a bit of disillusion, as if there was an expectation that all my shit would miraculously come together, even thought I knew that wasn’t possible.
Birthdays used to be a time of pain, a frustrating reminder of how much I hated myself, therefore everyone must ignore the fact that I was born. I wouldn’t ever tell people when my birthday was, and in the new age of the internet, I would delete every single birthday greeting people posted to my Facebook wall. I cried on my birthday from 20-25, laying in bed on those nights, taking a mental inventory of life and hating everything: where I was living, what I was doing, who I was and who I was becoming.
Hate, hate, hate. It seeped out my tear ducts for hours, and the few people who knew about these moments could not rescue me from directing all the hate in my life towards myself.
Something changed when I moved to Seattle. On my 26th birthday, you could find me in a swarm of people in the home I shared with my three roommates; I was drunk and extremely happy with my life because, for the first time on my birthday, I was alive. I was learning to love myself, and accept the love others had for me. “It’s my birthday!” I kept shouting, and the crowd would lift their drinks and cheer. “Best birthday ever!” More cheers. I had a bad hangover the next day, but damn, that was a great night.
I’ve had a few more great birthdays since then, and I think it’s because I’ve been in the business of learning how to care well for myself, to enjoy myself, and to love who I am and who I am becoming. I’m learning more and more how to let other speak words of goodness and love over me, and that’s how I wanted to mark this milestone of 30 trips around the sun.
Words hold a power that many are unaware of; words can deeply harm, but they can also heal the wounds left on our hearts by others. I still carry the wounds from words spoken to me in my life, some of which I can still hear spoken very clearly. This year, I boldly asked for the people in my life to give me healing
. I sent an email out to family, friends, and acquaintances, and I said that for my birthday I wanted one thing: a letter from them. I wanted them to share with me a story of our time together that sticks with them, something good they see in me, a way I have changed since they know me, how they have experienced me, and what wishes or hopes they had for me for the next decade of my life.
I have been overwhelmed by the response.
Such words, beautiful words, insightful words, silly words, tender words; words that show me that I am known and loved by this ragtag group of people I have in my life. Wishes for me, grand wishes, wishes of knowing I am loved, further life adventures, companionship, career success (whatever that may look like), but an overall wish to never forget who I am right now in this moment: that I am good; my heart is good; and that I am loved.
Washed in the beautiful voices from these letters, I spent a weekend eating, drinking, laughing, and celebrating with friends. The weekend ended with dinner, wine, and more laughter around the kitchen table while the dear ones around me shared memories from our life adventures together; they shared with me the things they see in me and the things they admire about me. At some point I realized that this it is so rare that we get to live in these moments because this is usually what we do to celebrate someone’s life after they are gone. We gather to celebrate someone’s life by telling stories and sharing how that person has impacted us. I was, essentially, living my funeral, and I was loving every minute of it.
I fell asleep that night with a smile on my face.
There was not a tear to be shed.
I welcome this new decade with a sense of awe and wonder at life, at how much people can change, and how fast time flies.