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”.
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”?