As I write this, I am exactly 17 minutes away from turning 33. This is the first birthday in which the age that I am turning has daunted me a little bit.
Not so scary: Pleasingly symmetrical in shape. Divisible by two prime numbers. And yet: I am no longer in my early thirties. It seems like a stretch to lay claim to any kind of youth. Whatever life is at this moment in time is not just a “phase” or a “transition” or a “period of growth,” but, well, my life. My real, actual adult life.
When I got sick, I had just turned 26, which in itself felt like a fairly monumental birthday. Two years of treatment later, I was 28, without having moved forward in any tangible, externally marked way. I felt as if those two years had simply evaporated. It felt strange when I had to introduce myself to strangers again and all of a sudden I was 28. Hadn’t I just been 25?
And yet: I felt lucky to be 28. I felt lucky to be ok and healthy. As I reminded myself, it was better than the alternative. (Which is, of course, becoming a vampire.)
I was also still half-convinced that something terrible would happen and I would wind up back in the hospital, despite the assurances of my doctor. The frequent panic attacks over my health crowded out more banal concerns about the inevitable march towards old age.
I was still figuring out how to be in this mysterious new body that didn’t always cooperate; to live with the whiplash of becoming a sick person and then becoming a survivor. In some ways, those years were too much of a blur to reflect. I was muscling through.
Now, at 33, I have breathing room to pause and think about what it means to have lived 33 years on this particular planet. When I was 26, I thought a lot about how I hadn’t yet achieved everything I wanted to; now, I think more about experiences I want to have, ways I want to help shape peoples’ lives.
When I was sick, I often made mental bargains with no particular entity, promises of eternal gratitude and appreciation if everything just turned out okay. Unsurprisingly, it hasn’t always stuck (see my last post on gratitude journaling).
But it does tend to work on birthdays, when I can take a pause to reflect, to think about how lucky I am to have more time to grapple with this beautiful, frustrating, inexplicable world.
So. 33. I hope my birthday grants me a hall-pass for this more than slightly corny post. Happy to be here and for all of the possibilities still ahead.