This year I almost entirely forgot I was going to have a birthday.
Strangely, I’ve been telling people I’m 26 for over a year, despite the fact that I was 25 until today. I think I didn’t want to think about 25. Even though, it turned out to be an AMAZING year, 25 held a lot of false promises for me.
Growing up, I promised myself that I would have everything I dreamed of by the time I was 25. It was silly, naive, flawed, but child me thought I would be out of the rat race, be volunteering in my passions, have my mansion on the sea, and my farm, and a loving partner, and my kids, by the time I was 25.
That’s not how it turned out. Over time I gave piece by piece to the wind, and even though today I don’t quite have any of those things the way I pictured it, I am very happy with who I am today and the life I have. In fact, my life is incredible (and I know there are more incredible things to come).
But, I didn’t feel that way in the few years leading up to 25. I could see that the path I was on wasn’t taking me where I wanted. I felt impotent, poor, and unloveable for a long time, not even sure if I deserved the things I was aspiring to.
I remember a feeling I had on my birthday a few years ago vividly. I went to my Facebook feed to see who had wished me a happy birthday, and there were only a handful of wishes despite nearly 1000 Facebook friends. I didn’t want to admit it to myself, but I was disappointed. I celebrated (lavishly) with my mom and sister, and I heard from a few of my family members and closest friends, but I remember feeling dark, as I had been feeling for a long time. I think this lack of birthday well wishes was a reflection of where I was at the time. If someone were to call me on the phone, my initial reaction was “why are you calling me and interrupting my life?” rather than being excited at the chance to connect and share love. If someone texted me, I got a feeling of dread and revulsion instead of a happy little dopamine rush.
Today that’s all different. When someone calls, sometimes I’m still not in the mood, but most of the time I feel honored! Yay! Someone is thinking of me! When I get a text, yay! I feel the love! In fact, I intentionally call, and text, and plan to meet other people in person! What a revelation. Some days it’s still a work in progress, but I can feel that there is a world of difference.
This year on my birthday, as I sit in Starbucks with the goal of editing some stories for an upcoming compilation book, I am being overwhelmed with calls, texts, and Facebook messages from people I have come to know and love. I am compelled to reply to each one of them with gratitude, because the time they have taken to reach out to me means the world to me. They didn’t have to do it.
Earlier this afternoon, one phone call came in, and I saw it was my good friend. I hadn’t spoken to her in weeks. Like a shadow of my previous self, I answered half-jokingly saying, “Whaaaat, what do you want?” She asked where I was and told me she and another one of my best friends were at my house! They came to see me to wish me a happy birthday, but I was not there. Oh my God, what friends are these. Amazing ones. Apologetically, I told her which Starbucks I’m at, then they actually freaking came to Starbucks and brought me homemade, vegan cookies. And sang me happy birthday. I nearly cried—but there was no time, we needed to catch up. I am still overwhelmed sitting here by the kindness I am receiving. What could I have possibly done to deserve this?
I think the difference is love. My word for 2017 was love, and I can’t tell you enough what an incredible guiding light LOVE has been. Self-love. First, self-love. And then love for others. I now recognize that although it’s important to get around the “right” people, it’s not easy to know who the right people are. We are each incredible and special and have our own stories, and we can’t learn what those stories are until we get to know someone. Today, I am learning to start with loving people first. And that has made all the difference.
I’ve learned to love like this, honestly, through my job. Working on compilation books with Kyle Wilson, and getting to know each of the coauthors and all of the shit they’ve been through and seeing how amazing they are now and, in some cases, showing them how amazing they are, has opened my eyes and my mind. Listening to, embodying, curating, caring for their stories has changed me. We all go through shit, we all have things, flaws, pasts, but that doesn’t make us less than the incredible humans we are today. I am so grateful to be doing what I’m doing and learning what I’m learning. It has changed my life.
I love you all.
Now the question is, what will my word be for 2018? What could possibly top love? Do I need to choose a new word to continue to grow? Instinct tells me I do. Bravery? Boundaries? Connection? Those are possibilities…. I have scheduled time for self-reflection, a whole retreats’ worth in fact (see those of you in the know there (what what The Real Estate Guys!)), and I will let you know what I come up with!
In the meantime, cheers to love. It has made a revolution in me.