Today is my 29th birthday.
I’m not scared to grow older. I’m scared of lots of things: cancer, burglars, big trucks, e-mails where the subject line is a person’s first and last name. But I’m not scared of my birthday, nor am I scared to say good-bye to my twenties. I am ready, though I’ve got one more year before it’s time.
I no longer feel defined by my age. I actually feel rather timeless, neither young nor old. I’m neither innocent nor jaded, neither clueless nor wise. I feel a child’s delight inside me when I see tiny wildflowers in bloom, or a flock of black birds perched high above me on an electrical wire. I feel a teenager’s heart flutter inside me when I look at Matt and I remember how unlikely it was that we met at all. I feel a lifelong student’s intellect when I read and write. And I feel a timeless curiosity whenever I try something new, a sense that I will never be too old to learn, to try new things, and to fail. Mostly, though, I’m just me, with 29 years of adventure under my belt, and I’m ready for what’s next.
This year has been a good one and a hard one. Is that true for every year? I don’t know. This year brought two cancer diagnoses to people for whom I care and a lot of fear of the future, but I remain hopeful that these stories will have happy endings. Maybe that’s the mark of a good year—that you still feel hopeful for what’s next, even in the face of tragic news. For me professionally, it was a train wreck between my expectations and what I accomplished. I have been trying to make my peace with these disappointments. Personally, it was a year to grow into my home here in Texas. I have had many magical moments here, tiny pauses during which I notice how beautiful and surreal it is down here. Taking lots of pictures has helped me notice more of these moments. I spent a lot of time outside. Texas makes it easy to be an outdoor girl.
This year also brought many new babies into my life. Two sets of friends became parents, and an adored colleague at work became a father. In my own family, we’ve got a new baby on the way, a brother or sister for my niece, Lydia. In another family, a set of twins celebrated their first birthday. Their birth a year ago was three months earlier than it should have been, and it was terrifying, especially for their parents, my dear friends. To see the twins turn one—well, I was so happy, knowing they’d made it and they’re doing their best to be good babies.
When I think about what I want for this next year of my life, I think about living a bigger, more vibrant life. I don’t need massive changes in my life; I’m pretty happy the way things are. I could use fewer weekends in the lab, yes, but those weekend hours come as part of my larger commitment to my work. Of course I’d love to see my work really take off, to find myself working on a project that is going to pan out into a new science story and a paper. That goal hasn’t changed since I started my postdoc. But beyond my work, this is what bigger and more vibrant looks like to me.
I want to wear more red clothes.
I want to eat more chocolate cake.
I want to run more miles.
I want to swing on more swings.
I want to wear a twirly blue skirt as much as possible.
I want MORE ADVENTURES.
I want to wear fishnets and short skirts.
I want to eat more pizza.
I want to see more sunsets.
I want to spend more time hugging.
I want to walk in parks with my favorite people.
I want to break two hours in a half-marathon.
I want to make new friends but keep the old. (One is silver and the other gold!)
I want to work on my laugh lines, so that when I’m old, my mouth turns up, not down.
I want to watch the Harry Potter movies. (I’m so far behind! I’m only on Goblet of Fire now.)
I want to read more fiction and spend more time in libraries.
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I think that’s enough for one year. Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers. I hope your little hearts soar with gratitude tomorrow as you celebrate this holiday with loved ones and fantastic food.