(Alert: this post is lengthy and a little sappy at points.)
To me, birthdays are a time to be thankful for life, to be hopeful for another good year, and to reflect on what has happened and who I have become.
Last year on my 20th birthday, I reflected on an eye-opening year of change and growth. It had been a whirlwind of a year, and I was set on a new path. Through heartbreak, victories, gains, and losses, I was different, and proud of who I was becoming. I was finding myself.
(You can find that entry here.)
Looking back now, the past year was again full of things unexpected. But, this time, it was a year of discovery, reinvention, and overwhelming blessing.
• After picking myself up and brushing myself off, I started my 21st year loving myself and happy to be single. I felt closure and I realized that being broken up with was probably the best thing that my ex- had ever done for me. Although it was not a bad relationship by any means, it also was ultimately not for me, or either of us for that matter. I learned a lot, and I never had any regrets about it. But I parted from it knowing that it was the best thing for me, and excited to be on my own. I was ready to be myself again.
• I finally came to terms with the fact that some friends are seasonal, and that it’s okay. For a long time, I’ve felt like my life is a revolving door for friends. This year was no exception, and I sometimes would wonder why things happened the way they did. But I think I now understand that people come into your life when they are supposed to, and maybe, they also leave when they are supposed to. “Friends” does not have to mean “friends forever”. And you can beat yourself up all you want about why things are the way they are, but it may just be the way it should be. You give a piece of yourself to them, and you take a piece of them with you, and you’re a part of each other forever even if you never speak again. On the other hand, I do recognize that I struggle with keeping in touch. I easily get tied up with the busyness of life and can’t catch up to all of the people I need to or want to. I get distracted by life’s chaos and forget to call back, or forget to ask someone how they are doing. And it’s something I need to seriously and consciously work on, because the friendships that I do still have are extremely important. Some old and some new, but all integral parts of my life, and all relationships that I’m not willing to lose. I’m so thankful for my close friends and how much of a blessing they have been. I hope you all know just how much you mean to me.
• In the beginning of May 2012, I started as a shop assistant at Headlight Tattoo. I had no idea that first day I stepped into the shop how much it would change my life. I mean, it was really just a shot in the dark. I don’t just enjoy my job. I love my job. And it’s not just a job, its a community. Although it was hard at first getting my family on board with my new career choice, they are now some of my biggest supporters. And over the past year, I finally feel like I’ve found somewhere that I belong. I feel like I’m somewhere that I can grow and be happy and creative. I love the people I work with, and I have a lot to learn from them. They’re such talented people. And now, I get to look forward to really learning how to tattoo in August. It may be unconventional, but I guess so am I. I just know that I can wake up every morning and get paid to do something I enjoy, and something that I can be proud of. On top of that, I just feel that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. And also from here, I have so many wonderful directions to go in. At the end of the day, I couldn’t really ask for more.
• Being on the SAB Executive Board during the school year was the pinnacle of my college career. I went back to school early in August, and knew from my first day back that it was going to be a great year. Not only did SAB teach me a lot of practical lessons and give me a lot of good experience, but it gave me a family. That was something I wasn’t expecting, but something that I couldn’t be more thankful for. Ben Taylor, Emma, Joe, Brandon, Colleen, Alexa, Ann, Sheba, Jimmie, Jamie, Rolando, and the Dances and Concert Committees: thank you. I don’t know if any of you will read this, but just know how much you all mean to me. I love all of you dearly, and I wish that we could all just work together forever. We went through a lot together, and I know that I came out of college with an amazing support group. You have all helped me grow as a person, and I honestly give you all the credit for making my senior year incredible. I pray that we will all be able to stay in touch and stay close long after we all graduate.
• Four years ago at 6 months old, my little cousin Maria was diagnosed with neuroblastoma and went into surgery to remove a tumor. This February, Maria went through her last round of testing and became a cancer survivor. All I can say to this is: miracles do happen. And that called for some serious thanksgiving and celebration.
• I graduated. Not only did I graduate, but I finished my Bachelor’s degree in three years and did so with honors. Graduating early was something that I always wanted to do, but it seemed like a hard goal to reach. I honestly don’t really know how I did it; I guess I’m just a little crazy. But I worked hard for it, and I am proud of myself for it. However, I really owe it to my family for all of their support and encouragement throughout my time at Messiah. Around the time of graduation, I realized just how important they have been to my college career. I mean, I really couldn’t have done it without them. Mom and Dad, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I hope I’m making you proud.
• I have this beautiful opportunity to study abroad again with the International Business Institute program through Messiah. It is technically my last semester, and includes travel to 13 countries in 10 weeks. Insane, yes. Incredible, yes. Invaluable, definitely. So far, I haven’t been able to catch my breath, partially because we have been so busy and partially because I cannot even process how amazing this all is. We’re now in our 4th week on the program, and I have no idea where the time is going. But I am trying my best to grasp everything and soak it all in while I can. This world is an extraordinary place, and I am beyond lucky to be able to explore it. I feel privileged to be a part of this, and I cannot wait to see what is in store for the rest of the trip.
• My spiritual journey over the past year has been amazing and indescribable. Really. And that’s all I can say because I just can’t even explain it.
• And I saved the best (and my favorite) for last: Brandon. Although we had been friends for a couple years, the thought of us ever dating really never crossed my mind until I went back to school last fall. Then it all hit me at once, and my life has been brighter ever since. Brandon, you are my confidant, my supporter, my shoulder to lean on, my partner in crime (but really, shopping cart anyone?), my sunshine in the worst of weather, my mentor and listener, my love, and my best friend. You have my heart, and know that I will do my best to protect and take care of yours. I have so many favorite memories already: grocery store dates, walks to the breeches and the bleachers, Jurassic Park and air hockey at the arcade, late-night diner and Sheetz runs, car talks, Christmas, watching Cops and Lockup and Adult Swim, desk shifts, long drives, jam sessions, how nervous we both were in the beginning of this, visiting family and weekends between NJ and NY, concerts, all of our adventures, days at the park and afternoons in the hammock, nights on the Harrisburg bridges, great conversations, the look on your face in the kitten room at the animal shelter, seeing you play shows… I could literally go on forever. You have just made my past year a truly amazing one, and I can’t wait to spend many more with you. You are everything that I’ve ever wanted and needed and more, and I literally thank God for you every single day. I love you, always.
I really couldn’t have asked for a better year. And I’m looking forward to all of the adventures and beautiful journeys in store for this year.
Life is so, so good.
P.S. - A year ago, I wrote that my family was thinking of going to Vegas for my birthday. Yep, totally happening in August when I get home from the IBI program. What is my life?