November 3, 2009

Maybe It's Me: Vingt-Cinq, or, A Perspective of an Unedited Quarter Century of Life

Today I became a “Quarter Centurion.”

I knew I was going to have a rough time turning twenty-five. And it had nothing to do with being or feeling “old,” it had everything to do with the overwhelming flood of emotions I knew was inevitably going to hit me at some point through the day as I truly came to embrace that a quarter century of unedited life, of my life, has already been lived.

I spent this birthday with my three best friends: my mom, my dad, and my sister. I would have had it no other way. They’re the ones that have been with me since I was born lo those twenty-five years ago, they are the ones that love me unconditionally in spite of how quirky or sensitive I’ve come to be, they are the ones I pray desperately will be there with me at my Half-Century mark.

But it’s been hard for me today to look at them and not start crying.

The older I get the more I realize that I’m losing valuable time with them; just me and just them, and no one else. This bothers me tremendously, to the point of tears, that at some very real, very close moment in time I’m not going to be a solo act anymore. I don’t know why this is, but I’m scared of losing something special and something sacred. And I realized this birthday might be one of the last years I get to have these people that mean everything to me all to myself. Which is selfish and stupid, but when you’re an overly sensitive soul these are the thoughts that creep into your heart when you should be celebrating.

So, as I spent time with each parent today, really studying them – really enjoying them - I couldn’t help but also wonder if they were proud of me – proud of the woman I’ve become, proud of the daughter I’ve been. I couldn’t help but wonder if I turned out the way they hoped. If I fulfilled the hopes and dreams they had for me.

And then I wondered if I had been a good enough role model to my sister. I wondered if I had been the faithful friend she needed over the years or if I had stood up enough for her when she couldn’t defend herself.

Far too heavy thoughts to be having when there’s cake and ice cream.

Eating cheesecake with my dad tonight, I really noticed for the first time how deep the wrinkles in the corners of his eyes (which have grown more tender over the years) are when he laughs. And despite the face not being as smooth and young as it once was, his laugh has never changed. I remember being in bed as a little kid and hearing that loud bark of his travel down the hall when he and my mom would be watching something funny on TV. Even then it comforted me to know that such a hard-working man was happy in that moment. That one moment.

And my heart broke a little as we sat there and reflected on all the horrible things I said and did to him when I was a teenager. I know teens are expected to act out like that, but I wish I hadn’t (part of the charm of not being able to go back and do something over is for us to be horrified or disappointed by our actions enough so that we can rectify them in the future, I think). I knew then that I had to really embrace every moment I get with him these next twenty-five years. I think he’s wonderful. Not only does he know how to make me laugh, and accepts me however bizarre he thinks my beliefs are, but he really is a wealth of wonderful knowledge that I need to not roll my eyes at or sarcastically respond to. I’m going to start hugging him more, too – this is something he stopped doing when I was eight and his grandmother died. He doesn’t know that I know that’s when it stopped, but it did.

And that needs to be changed.

I suppose I know he’s proud of me, though. Just recently, despite the constant nagging about me finding a boy, settling down, and giving him grandchildren, only a couple weeks ago as he was helping me settle into my first apartment all by myself, told me, uncharacteristically, that he thought it would be good for me to be alone for a while. This, as trivial as it may seem, was an unbelievably reassuring statement from him – it gave me the liberty I needed to spend some time finding myself.

And there’s my sister, who, all of a sudden, is much more closed-off and emotionally restrained than ever before. When I looked at her tonight I just wanted to grab her by the shoulders and tell her that she needed to snap out of the funk she was in. That she needed to realize that every moment was something she needed to be embracing despite how horrible, or angst-filled, or lonely, or overwhelming they were to her. Because it all goes by so fast. And I don’t want her to miss out on all the wonderful things that happen day in and day out. She already is, and I want nothing but everything for her.

I wanted to tell her this, because I’m that faithful friend that I’ve always been, who stands-up for her when she can’t defend herself.

Especially now, when she needs to be defended from herself.

And then there’s my mom. I know my mom is proud of the way I turned out, and the daughter I was and am. She actually mentioned today that I was the best decision her and my father ever made together. And recently she reminded me she would always and forever support every decision I make. This is something she told me when I was seventeen and frightened about the future. And something she told me again when I was twenty-four and even more frightened about the future (like turning twenty-five). And something I hope she always reminds me of. Her support? It’s been the safe harbor for me all these years before leaping blindly (with her whispers of encouragement and promises of catching me when I fall) – and I hope it always will be.

Before I headed home tonight, I actually stopped by my mom’s one last time to decompress. And I found myself just watching her in awe, completely mesmerized by her, as she sat across from me wearing her dad’s old black slippers, her blue plaid pajama pants, and gray knit long-sleeve shirt excitedly reading aloud random passages about strong women from the Bible; and, I realized she is absolutely the most beautiful woman I know.

Without a doubt, the most stunning creature I know.

What she doesn’t know is that I’m horrified at the idea of growing up. That’s what today really boiled down to: I do not want to grow up. Because, what if I’m not half the woman she is? What if I’m not as strong, as bold, as compassionate, as kind, as faith-filled, as loving as she? And I don’t want to have kids because what if I can’t do as good a job as she did at raising my sister and I?

These were not thoughts I was having on my fifth birthday.

These were not thoughts I was having on my fifteenth birthday

These were, however, the thoughts I was caught-up in today, my twenty-fifth birthday.

But I’m okay with that.

Because like it or not, tomorrow’s already here.

And I’ve got another twenty-five years of life to begin living.

Maybe it’s me, but perhaps birthdays weren’t always meant to be a wild rumpus.

Perhaps, every now and again, every quarter-century or so, birthdays are meant to be subdued celebrations of reflection, despite how heavy the thoughts that accompany our cake and ice cream are, on their life lived and the life they want to live, from that point on.