It’s 11:14 pm which means I have less than an hour left of being 22. I know that every year I feel a little sad on my birthday because it forces me to notice that I’m growing up and that things are changing. I feel a little sad this year as well, but in a different sort of way. I’m still sad that the timeline of life is moving so fast and that all around me people are changing, but I’m also a bit sad for myself. 23 will be a huge year for me – I’M GOING TO EUROPE. I’m finally doing what I’ve been dreaming about all year. But I’m sad because I know I’m saying good-bye to this girl – the girl I am right now – for good. Oh, I’ll still have bits and pieces of her, but I will be different in ways that I can never go back to.
It feels momentous to be lying on my bed reflecting on turning a year older like I have every birthday eve for as long as I can remember. Before turning 22, I was so eager to come out of my shell and explore. I accomplished that this year – it was a good year of personal growth for me. I learned so much about myself and about the world. I learned how to be myself and how to live in the world. I learned how to cope with the loss of a loved one and how to live with a heart so heavy with grief I thought I couldn’t take one more step. I learned how grief affects us all differently and I learned that my grandma has a more complicated life than I ever imagined.
l learned that I can never let my fear of change consume me ever again if I want to keep the people I love in my life and I learned that I can be so terribly cruel, it makes me shiver.
I learned that love doesn’t work out just because you want it too. I’ve learned that you can find friendships in unlikely places and that every once in a while, life will give you a scene that looks like it jumped right out of a movie. And it’s these moments – these rare and precious moments – that make life so amazing.
I’ve lain beside my youngest sister as she cried her eyes out because her boyfriend had to return home and I cried because I realized that I’m not – and never again will be – the closest person to her. I don’t think I ever was. I’ve watched my older sister move out and start her independent life. I’ve seen her adjust to ‘adulthood’; I’ve seen her thrive in becoming her own person. I’ve had my little sister not talk to me and completely cut me off for the whole summer – and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through – but it taught me that no matter how many times you say sorry, it will never be enough if he or she is not ready to forgive you. And through that, I learned that sometimes you have to step away from the people who are hurting you even if it breaks your heart.
I learned that I am in danger of becoming cynical and jaded, because every year it becomes harder and harder to believe in my happy ending when everyone is telling me reasons not to. I learned how to find the courage to let go of things I thought I would tightly clutch to my heart forever and guess what – I survived. I learned that the world is both big and small at the same time – and that the universe is a vast and magical place that is both inspiring and overwhelming.
I learned that I’m braver, much braver, than I ever thought I’d be. I learned that I can jump off a bridge and survive, and that I can fall down on a skytrain and get right back up. I learned that saying good bye to my dad at the airport will never fail to make me want to cry. I learned that I can be in a crowded room full of people I’ve known for years yet feel alone, and that I can stand in a street on the other side of the world that’s full of strangers and feel connected.
I learned that movies and books can still make me cry and that looking at the sunset can still fill my soul with indescribable wonder. I learned that growing up is a lot more confusing than I thought it would be and that my mom doesn’t always have the answers like she used to. I learned that the people I love will tell me things that hurt and that I don’t have to listen to those who try to tell me how to live my life.
Most importantly, I learned that this is my life and that I can make it as spectacular as I want to. I learned that I’m not too small for the world; I learned what it feels like to be alive.
Thank you, 22; it’s been a real slice. I’ll remember you as a dear friend who has moved away and is never coming back – and I will forever cherish the time we spent together. I’ll revisit you in pictures and in memories that come floating to my mind years and years down the road – in the memory of lying on my deck on a lazy summer’s afternoon dreaming about seeing the world, in the heartache of seeing a reminder of my grandpa, in the sound of New York taxi horn, in the warmth of an Australian sunset, in the joy of jumping on my sister’s bed, and knowing that my dad and I made it together.
I’ve loved every part of you – the good parts and the bad parts – for molding me into the person I am. I know 23 will change me as well – but I promised my friend I wouldn’t let it change all of me, and I intend to keep that promise.
Good bye, 22; Hello 23.