Twenty-Five

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Tomorrow is my twenty-fifth birthday.

It’s not considered as big of a deal as eighteen or twenty-one, but I wouldn’t call it “just another day,” either. I’ve seen and done a lot, but I’ve also had a few close called in the process. One was a pretty serious surgery when I was just two weeks old, and the prognosis was grim. The other was the result of a dark depression that followed me everywhere as a teenager, snickering and whispering that I wasn’t good enough or strong enough. I’ve also carried a sense of self-awareness, that what is given can be easily taken away, and just because it has been around for a while doesn’t mean that it will be there forever.

A quarter of a lifetime is something. It’s not the end-all-be-all, yet there is a sacredness and an emphasis (though I don’t know how to describe it). Maybe I’m just feeling humble. Maybe, despite the years that have passed, I’m not entirely sure if I’ve accomplished a whole lot. And maybe I’m trying to be cautiously optimistic, preferring to have balanced expectations and be surprised than the other way around. I’ve always had mixed feelings about birthdays in general, as I have to work at not getting wrapped up in what I want to happen (versus what actually does). And for the sake of not sounding conceited or ridiculous, I’ll leave it at that for now.

I haven’t picked a word yet, one that I can set both long-term and short-term goals around.  At twenty-four I wanted to be bold, and that definitely manifested itself in ways that I wouldn’t have expected or imagined. Brave sounds too cliché, especially when I don’t have a whole lot of trouble with that. Merely being, however, is an entirely different story all together. It has been a struggle, like having my hands tied and being forced to accept whatever happens to me in life. It had no sense of direction, no end-goal or destination. There has to be more to it, otherwise it doesn’t serve much of a purpose.

What about being unapologetic?

Like many, I’ve developed a habit of saying “I’m sorry” too much and too often. Sometimes it slips out when I don’t realize it, becoming my fallback even in the midst of trying to do simple things like getting from one place to another. Admittedly, it has also become my way of diffusing tension in emotional conversation or situation; rather than just allow both parties time to process what took place, I’m quick to jump up and take blame for the discomfort. Part of it has been ingrained in me since childhood, and part of it stems from fear and insecurity. I’m constantly afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, especially at the wrong time. If a question or moment of vulnerability is met with silence (more so when it comes to texting), my anxiety kicks into over-drive and I automatically assume I’m at fault. It’s not good for my relationships, and it’s definitely not good for my emotional health.

“Unapologetic” does have negative connotations: the refusal to grow and evolve, or to make changes when you know that your current path is doing more harm than good. There’s a lack of responsibility, of owning up to mistakes and taking proactive steps to make amends. And there’s an aura of self-centeredness, of basically flipping the bird to everyone around you. With my history of taking tough as nails to the extreme, I can understand why these assumptions exist. And just because I re-define it does not mean that these assumptions will automatically go away.

When I think of what tends to define me, what comes to mind are the ways in which I care for others:  depth, compassion, curiosity, sensitivity, stubbornness, grit, and patience are all driving forces that influence how I interact with people around me, despite having days where I felt like I needed to hide or at least tone it down. Not everyone communicates in the same way, or feels as deeply as I do, which is why it’s unfamiliar and therefore uncomfortable. But I refuse to apologize for trying to add light into the world, for wanting to treat people like human beings and show them that they matter. I have always known who I am, but have not always been confident in the ways in which I feel led to be my own person. With the country and the world so divided, I believe in seeking to understand as much as I seek to be understood. Whatever is done out of love, and in a loving way, should not be followed by regret. In other words, I will not take something back (that I did for the sake of reassuring, affirming, or supporting) just because a reaction might be difficult to read.

What lies ahead is unclear, but my purpose is not. Here’s to another year of opportunities, risk, creativity, faith, and adventures.

Here’s to feeling alive at twenty-five.

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