I turned thirty-one this week, and even though I’ve been wearing the number around for the past month or two, I’m still not totally used to it. I’ve felt both younger and older than my real age, but never completely on par with my peers. Maybe that’s part of being human, and since we are humans and not trees, birthdays must be our simplistic version of ring dating. The simplest way for us to measure our revolutions around the sun.
My friends were as incredible as always this week, and I walked away from brunch today feeling like I could just about shatter. I am easily overwhelmed by gratitude. At the backend of gratitude there’s a sadness, so that after a few hours of celebrating or spending quality time with family or friends, I often need to escape to be by myself.
Birthdays are difficult, especially the closer I get to the age when my mom died, which was thirty-eight. When another year passes, so does the gap between now and then, though in many ways, the loss is more acute with every life event. And maybe you feel this way, too, but when you lose a parent (or a close relative, or a close friend), you become hyperaware of your own mortality and the mortality of those you love (of the fleeting nature of all things, really). Intellectually, I know it’s unlikely I’ll die at the same age, but the number is mired in my identity. I’m not scared of dying, but I am scared of leaving too soon.
I don’t know where I thought I’d be at thirty-one, but I do remember, at the age of twenty-one, desperately wanting to feel good in my own skin, to trust myself, and hoping I’d get there in the next decade (I have–and that’s been the biggest victory of all). I hated to feel vulnerable (but have since learned to find freedom in vulnerability–second biggest victory). I didn’t know if I wanted children, or what that might look like, but I knew that family could stretch beyond our biological definition of the word, that it does take a village to raise a child (and it did). I wanted to experience, to see other parts of the world, to live. I was okay with not knowing or being able to explain most things, like our existence and what happens afterward, and I still am. My heart is full, and that much is true. Also, it’s enough.