Today I turned 31.
And you know what? It was just fine. Even though there is only one peanut butter bar left, which means I’ll have to bake more tomorrow. This birthday, which I was anticipating with so much dread, turned out to be a sweetly calm day of grant-revising, light shopping, a pasta dinner (with soysage! and leftover pasta made by a friend! and a delightful salad of shaved fennel and orange slices!), and after-dinner coffee with two friends. There were dozens (dozens!) of Facebook messages, a few phone calls, some groovy birthday gifts, a walk and a bike ride in the sunshine, and dare I say it? Contentment. I was content today.
I had been dreading today because I thought it would send me into a mope spiral over how terrible #30 turned out to be. In case you’ve forgotten, let me recap the last year of my life for you: two grants rejected, the end of a cherished romance, and the death of one brother. Despite all that, I think I have maintained my sense of self, and at the center of that is hope. I am not my losses. I am what remains when those losses have been turned into something more permanent: compassion, knowledge, wisdom, flexibility. I will not look back on this year fondly, but I will carry inside of me the hard-won prizes from a year that threatened to take everything away from me. And I mean everything.
Maybe some day I will contradict myself and look back on #30 with something like sweet sadness for all the pain that it brought. It brought good things, too, but right now I feel too raw to make myself sift through the year for those gems. I just want to quietly slide into a new year of my life and hope that it will be better than the last. I keep thinking of that Counting Crows’ song “A Long December” and the opening lines:
A long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last.
Indeed. Maybe this year will be better than the last. I have to at least believe it’s a possibility. Right now, perched on the edge of #31, it is.