Happy birthday to me (Am I a grown-up yet?)

Adriel Booker's 35th Birthday

I keep wondering which birthday will catapult me into adulthood.

It wasn’t 25. I was young and adventurous and celebrating by hurling myself from a plane.

It wasn’t 30. I was young and in love and dreaming of having the last name “Booker.”

And it’s not 35. I am young and just beginning to see more clearly and growing more than I ever have.

If someone was to label me a “child”, I’d probably scrunch my nose a little bit… and yet most of the time I don’t feel like a “grown-up” either.

My eyes have a few more wrinkles around them, I wouldn’t dream of dressing up to go shopping, and my idea of the perfect afternoon consists of a few hours of being alone.

Perhaps those are the things that have quietly snuck up on me – helping me to see that I am, in fact, not a child any more.

Though not a child, I am young.

Yes, I have a wedding band on my finger, babies at my feet, and bills and responsibilities with my name on them… But mostly, I’m the same girl that strapped on a backpack and headed to Asia twelve years ago in hopes of loving people a little more.

I’m her, but I’m not.

I’ve traded my backpack for a roller suitcase and my beloved independence for community.

Growing old doesn’t scare me. I’ve always rung in birthdays with a bang – celebrating the milestones, relishing the achievement of one more year of life and growth and stories written in the book of my life. And even more so the “big birthdays” – you know, the ones ending in zeros or fives.

But this year feels different.

I’m much less concerned about myself. More relaxed in my expectations. More aware of my blessings.

Maybe that’s a sign that I am beginning to grow up.

Recently a friend who is moving soon texted me asking if she could “steal” my kids for an afternoon. She was getting sad about leaving them and wanted some time together.

I jumped at the opportunity to have some time alone on my birthday – perhaps my most favorite of gifts – and was delighted to know that she was free that day. Excitedly I made plans for a few hours in a coffee shop to read and write, with no unfinished-to-do-list guilt.

After being completely spoiled by my husband and the boys pulling the “birthday wagon” to my bedside that morning, I enjoyed a lovely breakfast and a shower sans littles.

Ryan left for work. And promptly… I got sick.

For nearly a month I’ve been having some reoccurring abdominal pain, and – after a battery of tests – we still haven’t figured out what is wrong. I’ve been worried at times and discouraged at others… but mostly just annoyed. And my birthday – of all days – I had woken up determined to be deliberate about enjoying each moment.

Instead of pushing my boys on the swings in the backyard or loading the car for an outing to the beach, I put Judah down for his nap early and curled up on the couch with Levi while he watched an hour of back-to-back Playschool episodes.

It wasn’t the idyllic morning I had envisioned.

And yet this is my life. This is our life. There is joy and pain and inconvenience and disruption and celebration and mundane and beauty all mixed into the fabric of real. And I’m learning to be okay with that – learning to let go of what perfection is “supposed” to look like.

A few hours later my pain had subsided, my friend had arrived, and I was out the door with book and laptop in hand, headed to a place where I could do what I love best.

I treated myself to a late lunch and read three chapters of my book, trying to ignore  the pain that was slowly creeping back in.

Sitting there alone—enjoying the alone—I wondered if I should give up and go home where I could curl into bed and wish it all away.

But instead I crossed the street, spread a blanket on the grass, pressed my aching belly on the ground, and propped myself up on my elbows.

Have you ever written with the ocean in your peripheral? It’s a good thing, friends, it’s a good thing.

The pain didn’t go away but I enjoyed the moment anyway.

And actually, I spent the majority of my birthday with a side dish of incredible pain… and yet still had an amazing day.

So maybe that’s it – maybe that’s proof that I’ve somehow reached adulthood. I’m learning how to embrace the “what is” in the midst of the “wished for” and “could have beens” and the future “might be’s”.

Because life is a lot more than perfection and ideals.

This is it folks – the one life we’ve been given. Right here, right now.

Don’t wait to get the guy/job/dream house/best friend/son/daughter/new car/perfect wardrobe/ideal vacation/whatever.

And don’t live looking in the rearview mirror, longing for something that’s already passed. (A sure way to get yourself into a car wreck.)

Your perfect is now.

I’m not going to waste mine.

Happy birthday to me.

(Maybe at 40 I’ll feel like I’ve finally reached adulthood. Maybe?)

Dear friends, are you afraid of getting older? What do birthdays mean to you? How are you doing with enjoying the present “perfect”?

About Author

Adriel Booker is an author, speaker, and advocate based in Sydney, Australia who believes storytelling, beauty, and the grace of God will change the world. Adriel has become a trusted voice in areas of motherhood and parenting, Christian spirituality, and global women's issues. She's also known for her work with the Love A Mama Collective—serving under-resourced women in developing nations through safe birth initiatives—as well as her years spent as a Bible teacher and leadership coach. Her latest book is Grace Like Scarlett: Grieving with Hope after Miscarriage and Loss and she's made the companion grief journal available for free. Find Adriel across all social media platforms at @adrielbooker or sign up for LoveNotes, Adriel's 'secret posts' that aren't published anywhere else online. ✌️


  • Rachel J.
    20 November 2012 at 1:45 am

    Happy birthday, Adriel! I feel the same way about birthdays – getting older has never bothered me (although I will hit the big 3-0 next year, so we’ll see if anything changes!). Sometimes I think we will never ‘feel’ grownup – we will just continue to grow, and it sure helps when we’re intentional about that growth.

    P.S. This is random, but do you take probiotics? Since having kids, I’ve had a digestive issue that was causing me a lot of pain, and taking probiotics has worked wonders for me. Not sure if yours is at all related, but I thought I’d suggest it. I hope you can get to the bottom of it – I know how frustrating it is!
    Rachel J. recently posted..Toy Ideas: A Not-So-Serious Christmas Gift Guide For ToddlersMy Profile

  • Meg
    20 November 2012 at 4:03 am

    Happy Birthday friend!

    “I’m learning how to embrace the “what is” in the midst of the “wished for” and “could have beens” and the future “might be’s” – YES. This is the key! I do struggle with getting older just because I think I’m behind on what I want to accomplish, but then I look back on the last 10 years and realize that even though I determined my plans, God determined my steps, and I’m right where I need to be. That’s comforting.

    I’m praying that you get some answers, soon. Of course, sharing your health problems also means all us health junkies will pipe up with our two cents, so feel free to ignore mine – I’m sure/hoping they’ve tested you for Celiac Disease?
    Meg recently posted..just write: to build an altarMy Profile

  • Katherine
    20 November 2012 at 5:46 am

    I knew I was getting older when I started chewing half sticks of gum. When I was younger- a whole piece of Hubba Bubba. Now- half a stick of Trident. That means I’m an adult:)

    Happy Birthday!
    Katherine recently posted..When You Wanted a ______, But You Got a _______My Profile

  • Laura G
    20 November 2012 at 9:17 am

    Happy happy birthday Adriel! May 35 bring you even more joy than the past 34 years! I’m sorry you weren’t well on your birthday, but it sounds like you made the best of the situation, something adults do. 🙂
    I’m not afraid at all of getting older. Turning 30 last year really was wonderful. I had fun in my 20’s, but I was ready to close the door on the parties, the late nights, the crazy. I am happy to turn my face towards early mornings, sweet baby kisses, my loving husband, and a different kind of crazy. I only wonder how much more fun 40 is going to be… 🙂

  • Jessica
    21 November 2012 at 11:39 am

    Happy Birthday! I love this post! I have missed you! I hope all is well!

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