Today is my birthday. I’m twenty-four. I’m in my mid-twenties now (I divide decades into threes) and can hardly believe it.
I learn – or relearn, rather – probably about eleven times every two weeks that life doesn’t always turn out how you plan it when you are three, or twelve, or eighteen, or twenty-two—or two hours younger than you were three minutes ago.
I’ve always loved my birthday. I love my family traditions and the friends who feed my self-indulgence with puffy paint t-shirts and adventures and scavenger hunts around Swiss chalets. I’ve never been afraid to broadcast my birthday and would be lying if I said I didn’t like positive attention. But–somewhere within all that–my birthday is a symbol of something more.
Birthdays, even more than every other Tuesday, make me think about where I’ve been and where I’m going. It’s an all-consuming job I have, thinking about myself.
When I turned three, I asked that carrot cake be served at my “friend” party; nobody liked it. When I was seven, my dad yelled at me for spilling a homemade orange soda snow cone on the dining room rug. When I was thirteen, a boy asked a girl out at my joint birthday party; the focus was no longer on the three of us birthday girls, and we were devastated. Some detail, superficial or not, always makes me sad for a short—or maybe even long, but that’s very rare—second or two on my birthday; it’s my own Valentine’s Day: the hype and hope send me through an emotional corn maze.
In the end, I just want everyone to be happy (with me as the excuse). People laugh. At the end, I just come back to myself and go to bed full of thanks and cake and laughter (at myself).
Today is my birthday. I’m twenty-four. At twenty-four, I missed some people, wondered about those I don’t yet know, and ate cupcakes or sipped tequila with the ones I’m so happy were here.
Tomorrow, I’ll be twenty-four-and-a-day.