I’m never been one to dwell on numbers, let alone age. But, when you’re hit with another year, your beliefs and attitudes are suddenly eclipsed by thoughts of your own mortality, desperately dwelling on everything you thought you’d have accomplished by now.
When I was a teenager, I was certain that my twenties would bring me everything I’d hoped my future would have – marriage, children, a steady career I loved, freedom from struggles and insecurities, and contentment in myself, just the way I am. My 27th birthday was prefaced with two weeks of reflection and worry. What had I done with my twenties? I’m not married, I don’t have children. Had I found personal satisfaction and release from the thoughts that plagued me years before? I couldn’t say.
I’d seen articles and blog posts about how peopled faced the reality of turning a year older. Random acts of kindness, self-reflection in the form of a list, highlighting everything they’d done over the course of the previous year, and more were all contenders for some. For me, I was too busy fearing for my life in a way I can’t describe.
To be honest, I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who could actively live in the present – blissfully “okay” with where I stood at any given moment, never overthinking the future or wondering what was to come. My reality is much stiffer than my idyllic fantasy. In truth, I always worry about what comes next and such a burden has been one of the core triggers of my anxiety. I’m not able to silence my mind like so many others seem to do with ease. Who’s to say why I’m this way? I just am.
In 27 years, I’ve found ways to cope and ways to surrender to this way of… being – this way of living. I’ve done my best to stop fighting it and, instead, embrace it as a skill – a way to stand out and push myself ahead. I just try my hardest not to let it own me.
Given what I’ve just told you, you can likely imagine how a birthday as monumental as the one I just had, coupled with my inane worry about anything and everything, put me in a position where I couldn’t help but question who I was, where I was, what I was doing, where I was going, how I would get there, what I wanted, who I wanted, and just about every other existential question one could ask oneself when faced with the rest of their life.
What did I do? I took it in strides and tried to internalize my panic, leveraging the people around me for moral and empathic support as I’d done so many times before. “Where will 27 take me?” I’d ask. No one could or can answer that question – I know that. Sometimes it’s nice – if not temporarily soothing – to hear from someone else that life doesn’t end on your birthday and that, in many ways, a new year of life means a new year of possibilities.
My 26th year saw me move to a new city, pursue a career, and drastically change my life in ways a younger version of myself would have shit his pants thinking about. I can’t focus on the particulars, so I focus on the big picture. I made changes and those changes led to good things for me. 27 will be the same. 27 will bring me changes and good things and I will continue to embrace them, to surrender to them (as best I can), and let them guide me in the same way my past experiences, without my immediate acknowledgment and understanding, have always done, and will continue to do.
Here’s to another 27 (and more).