This morning I woke up to sound of my phone dinging off the hook. The birthday messages had started rolling in the second the clock hit midnight in Germany. My first birthday wisher? My mom. "Happy Birthday in the future!!" She likes to think I live in the future. I do, kind of...6 hours ahead of the entire East Coast.
My 27th year of life has officially begun.
I was laying in bed last night, D already snoring away, thinking about my 26th year and how fast it flew by. As I get older, the years move along quicker and quicker. Why is that? We don't necessarily get busier. We don't shorten the weeks and turn forward our clocks each day. My guess is we don't stop to enjoy the moment we're in enough, so life speeds on by and another year we grow older. Truth be told, 26 wasn't my favorite year ever. In fact, it was one of my harder ones. Not because of any major event in my life (no one passed away, no one did me harm), no, not even for anything anyone around me would have noticed. 26 was hard for reasons I've held onto in the quiet of my mind. I know what you're thinking...I've got an amazing marriage, a loving family, I'm living abroad, and I've traveled my little heart out...how could year 26 bring me anything but good memories? You're so right. On the outside, 26 was good. REAL GOOD. But on the inside, 26 felt old. For the first time in my life I felt old. Old and behind on every significant milestone I'd ever planned for myself.
Don't roll your eyes at me. I realize 26 isn't old at all, but as this past year marched on, my age...mentally, emotionally, and physically...made itself glaringly present to me. My body felt different. I've somehow developed a knee problem that's nagged me all year. I began to daze in bewilderment at the fact that my little sister is 23 (twenty-three!?!), on her own, and living and breathing the New York City fashion industry. Isn't she still 17 and I hate her guts? Weren't we just there? Wasn't I just 23? I've gotten phone calls from my mom relaying news that my little cousin was off to her Senior prom...and that my baby niece isn't a quite a baby anymore, she's halfway to 2. I've sat and watched my Facebook newsfeed clutter with pregnancy announcements and "We're Homeowners!" party invites and class reunion reminders and new job congratulations. With every page refresh, slowly but surely my brain started melting into one giant pile of anxious ageism. The floodgates of comparison, jealousy, impatience, guilt, and confusion gave way in year 26 and I became my own worst critic. The pressure of comparing where I was at 26 and where everyone else my age was in their own lives started weighing heavy on my heart. My life felt in standstill here in Germany. There's not much to do here but travel, not that I'm complaining, really. And it's been our choice to hold off on expanding our family. But the second I turned 26, it's as if the goals and timestamps I'd always set for myself either broke into pieces or began waving their hands with fury-- "You're not getting any younger! We're still here! When's it our turn?!" I spent many days in year 26 with a knot in my stomach and the weight of all my dreams and aspirations crushing my shoulders. I really couldn't tell you why my 26th year decided to wage this internal war on me. Why not year 28? Or 30, even? Seems like a lot of premature worry for a mere 26-year-old. But that's my story. 26 be damned.
Today, I'm 27 and the dark cloud has lifted. Today, I'm another year older, but the knot is gone and the only weight on my shoulders is the decision of which restaurant I'll pick for my birthday dinner tonight. Hint: it's probably German food. This year, I've resolved to stop letting my age and the preconceived milestones that go along with it, define me. I've realized that the only one placing these life deadlines on me was me. I've been my own worst enemy this past year, and it's time I wash myself of it all. I hate to tell such a melancholy "woe is me" story on a day that really does bring such happiness to me (birthday's really, truly are my favorite things in the world). But I guess I just wanted to share that even though I seem like I've got it all figured out most days (bloggers are really good at showing you all the good stuff, you know), I struggle with life, too. Even awesome stuff like birthdays. The expat birthday is a whole other beast, but I'll save that whiny post for another year. As stupid and irrational as my thoughts about my age were last year, they took up a lot of my time and energy with worry and feelings of insecurity. They also taught me a lot about what's good and special about my life and the path that it's taken these last few years. God has a true and perfect plan, and I spent most of year 26 arguing with Him about it. You'd think I'd know better by now! This year...my beautiful 27th year...I'm letting go of control and giving it back to the One who gave me life in the first place. I'm taking time to enjoy every second I'm given instead of comparing my moments to someone else's. The birthday gift I'm giving myself this year? A break.
On a bit happier note (because I can't leave this birthday post without telling you these things), this day of birth has already shaped up to be quite lovely. D surprised me with going into work late and making me breakfast in bed. Aww, right? I've got the crème de la crème of husbands. We snuggled in our PJ's, sipped coffee, and he sang happy birthday to me in the silly voice he always does. I wish he could have spent the day with me, but duty calls (poo poo to weekday birthday's, AMEN?). After he left for work, I got an email from him. Subject: A Birthday Gift. I opened the email to find that he'd written an entire blog post for me (and for you). A BLOG POST! All about his perspective as the husband of a blogger. He said he couldn't think of a better gift than to write something from his heart to share on something so near and dear to my heart. I, of course, ugly cried as I read through the words he wrote. The tears are still warm on my cheeks. Guys, I don't know what I did to deserve such a fella, but my heart is practically bursting with love for him this morning. And I absolutely can't wait to share his post with you soon! So far, 27 feels...better. I'm sure it will come with its own bundle of ups and downs, but that's the grand ride of life, isn't it? I'm hopeful that as I continue to grow older, age will continue to be just a number instead of a reminder of choices made and life gone by. Cheers to living for today...no regrets, no comparisons.
A few of the highlights that helped keep my sanity in year 26:
Falling in love with Bruges
The love from this post on Blogging Currency
Skiing in Zermatt (which I'll blog about someday, swear it!)
The encouragement from this post on Extraordinary Love
The introduction of my Pros & Cons of Living in Germany series
Our fabulous Mediterranean Cruise!
Celebrating 6 years of wedded bliss in French wine country
Going home to NC for the 5th time!
Every year on your birthday, you get the chance to start new. -Sammy Hagar