I’m really happy.
I think there are other things I might have said, or tried to say, to obfuscate that point, but after twenty minutes of boring myself with some grandiose way of trying to make it something bigger, here we are: I’m smiling, and I’ve gotten to smile a lot today, and the rest is inconsequential; I had a happy birthday.
When I looked in the mirror this morning I saw a person whom I liked, and was looking forward to being.
And for me? That’s a big deal. That’s new. That’s exciting.
But it didn’t come from within. It was foisted on me by powers without. For two weeks I’ve been baptized in a sense of purpose and belonging, receiving two gifts which transcend anything I might have been consciously, intentionally given.
Gift One is acceptance into this program and, specifically, the fellowship supporting my first year. I know I’m supposed to be a master at articulation but words fail to encapsulate how it feels to walk into a room of brilliant people and to know that, in spite of the inferiority and uncertainty and anxiety, I am here because someone specifically decided that what I think and say will be a benefit to this community, and not simply because I wanted to be here. People who had never met me chose to invest, directly, financially, in the person I have the potential to be.
The second gift is a little less obvious, but in many ways more valuable: new friendship. I cannot overstate how incredible it feels to have people in your life who, after meeting you, could easily have avoided ever seeing you again, but have instead elected to make you a part of their lives and allowed you to make them a part of yours. And that’s not to slight any of the wonderful friends and family who reached out today to wish me well, whose continued participation in my life is its own ever-renewing reward. But to come into a place with no one by your side, and two weeks later have formed a group mutually comfortable enough to consider spending a weekend away together…
…did I mention I was smiling?
I was asked, today, if I was “doing anything for [my] birthday.” Some wild party. Some grand adventure. A little irresponsible spending. A special ritual. The implication, unspoken, that a birthday is made by something which can be pinpointed as exceptional, that it must (or, to avoid being pitiful, ought to) transcend the normal course of things.
Yet for my birthday, I did not transcend the normal.
I did homework for six hours. I went to a meeting. I went to class. I ate a homemade, brown-bagged dinner while rushing through a last-minute assignment. And I guess if I put it like that, it sounds like I didn’t “do anything.”
But in the spaces between, I did a job. I learned something new. I met new people. I deepened my relationships with others.
Whatever happens in the next days or weeks which may be justified on the basis of “it’s for my birthday,” the fact remains that my birthday is over.
I’m still feeling happy.
And of all the things I could “do” to embrace being twenty-four, I’m pretty comfortable with “doing” that.