27 + counting
This Monday marks the start of my 27th year.
I went nuts over birthdays when I was a kid — themes, elaborate cakes, pool parties, manicure dates with friends. I celebrated like it truly was a great achievement to have stayed alive for another 365 days. But as I’ve gotten older, the last few birthdays have been markedly quiet. I haven’t planned any kind of birthday event with my friends since college; usually, it’s a dinner with my family and that’s about it. I actually can’t even remember what I did last year. I think it involved watching “Anne of Avonlea” for the 1,000th time and going out for coffee.
This year, I had big plans that I was going to actually get up and do something to celebrate my next year. I wanted to throw a party, make a ton of cupcakes, jam to some tunes, wear a party dress, and generally get down and funky with my bad self. Then summer happened. And work. And my internship. And going out of town every weekend this month. And school starting.
And I forgot.
I forgot to plan a darn thing.
But here’s the thing: moreso than any other year I’ve been on this earth, I really feel like I want to celebrate not only my next year, but the one that is coming to a close. I find myself catching my breath all the time, hardly daring to believe that it’s me who gets to live this life I’m living right now. Do I really get to do these things every day? Do I really get to live in this place and walk alongside these people? Do I really get to be this happy? Does my life really get to be this good?
This past year, 26, has been a parallel journey of serious struggle and immense provision. I found myself in a new place, chasing a dream that was becoming my real life more and more each day, understanding and accepting the ways that God lovingly crafted me, and most importantly, learning what it is to really, honestly love that person who beamed back at me in the mirror each morning. Having come intimately face to face with my own faults and brokenness in the space of this last year, I feel the grace vibrating through each strand of my life because despite it all, there is just so much beauty there.
My best friend recently told me, “You live a rich life and it’s only getting richer.” How true that is; I find such deep and lasting fulfillment in the life I have worked so hard to build for myself. Not just because I get to spend my days doing something I love, but because of the kind of life I have chosen to live: an honest one, true to who I am and to who He is. I have chosen to celebrate, to believe in the best, to hope, to dance, to cry, to wear cute shoes and fabulous sundresses, to eat salted caramel cupcakes, and take walks just to feel the wind blowing my skirt against my bare legs.
It is something to celebrate this life, this year.
So I am celebrating, starting tomorrow and looking forward through next week.
I am going to a hot room yoga class tomorrow morning, thanks to a gifted Groupon from my friend Jessica. I am going to go to the farmers’ market and eat fresh blueberries and maybe splurge on that really cute nightie at Target I’ve been eyeing.
On Monday, I will start my last semester of culinary school and be thankful that I get to be there, learning, even when those classes are the ones I saved until the end because I didn’t really want to take them. I will remember that it is honor that I get to choose what I do each day.
I will eat homemade enchiladas with my family on Thursday, toasting with cold champagne and making myself a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake I actually get to eat (since usually, I make them for catered events and I have to bid them farewell without so much as a nibble).
I find it so strange that sometimes, people talk to me like my life is a conversation just waiting to start, mostly because I have chosen not to focus on dating or marriage throughout most of my 20s. While partly by choice and partly by fate, it has proven to be the best decision I have made yet. In these years, I have met someone far important than a man – I have met myself. I have met the incredibly beautiful, intelligent, driven and compassionate person that I have the amazing privilege to be; the person that God gives me the grace and courage to be each day, even on days when I do a terrible job of it. I have met the person that has convinced me that waiting for the right man isn’t a result of pickiness or hard-headedness; it is a gift to myself, to believe I am worth waiting for, just as he is worth waiting for.
As I go along this path God guides me down, I have not wavered in my belief that some day, when I least expect it, I will brush shoulders with a kind and loving man, who has been gently guided down this same path, and it will be strangely, oddly, exactly right. It will seem strange that he hasn’t always been there and it will be worth every lonely night and holiday celebrated by myself. I hold no delusions that men or marriage fix anything or are ever anything even close to perfect; to love another person is to constantly come face to face with each other’s brokenness and your own; to be be willing to forgive, to set aside your own wants, to serve, to risk, to persevere, even when giving up sounds so much easier. Somehow, this man will love me, even when I am a pain in the butt and cry over burnt cookies and stay up till 3 in the morning our first night in a new house, because I can’t bear things being in boxes.
And we will celebrate, just like this week, with cold champagne and chocolate cake, toasting and smiling, knowing that there is more to celebrate in this life than I could have ever imagined on my 27th birthday.