For years, I watched my 23rd birthday approach with some trepidation. As a child I attributed much significance to signs and symbols, and reaching the age of my day of birth seemed particularly impactful. As I grew older, I made plans – I’d go to Vegas, hike the grand canyon, try my hand at the Lotto or something, and – obviously – drink champagne.
Well, none of that happened, save the champagne – which was consumed in my bedroom with my ex in an evening that was less ceremonial than I’d dreamed but much more relaxing, necessary, and “me”. I kept the bottle, intending it to be a vase, along with fond memories of that night.
I didn’t go to Vegas, but I did travel to Brazil, for one wonderful month of research and new friendship extended to me freely in a time where I was feeling most vulnerable and fragile. The beaches and mountains of Rio were beyond picturesque, the Foz of Iguaçu were beautiful beyond all expectation, but it’s the friendships and connections I made that surpassed all expectation and left me feeling whole again.
I found stable ground at school this year, and have become far more confident (but, I hope, no less humble) than I was at the beginning of last year, when everything felt larger than me, vast and difficult.
So, tomorrow’s my birthday – and incidentally also the date of my second-to-last final exam of pre-clerkship, which works out serendipitously as I’ll actually be able to take an evening off without feeling too much like there’s something else I could be doing. It feels a bit weird to be just about past this year that I’ve built up for so long, and to look back and see how everything’s changed and yet still the same as it was before.
I wouldn’t change a thing about this past year; I’ve learned so many lessons that needed to be learned. How to let go of things that need to leave (I’m still clumsy at this, but we all start somewhere), and how to let back in the things that are meant to stay. How to stand up for myself, and simultaneously how to let the people around me love me (I think I’m well on my way to ditching my independent façade). How to better love them in return (I’m still working on this). How to breathe deeply and let go (a semi-regular morning yoga practice has helped here – it’s a practice, as with any, that I need to return to regularly). I’ve accepted that I’m uncomfortable in party environments, and that I’m okay with that – but you’re welcome to come over for dinner, or we can go out for tea or wine and have soul conversations.
I’m as happy as I’ve ever been. I live with my partner, my cat, and two of my very best friends. We’re all working towards projects that matter to us (the cat spends her days finding the best blankets to chew/sleep on and sampling anything that looks edible). I start every day with either yoga or the best coffee I can make (often both). I spend long days studying, too-short evenings relaxing in bed with my love and a book before nodding off, weekends with friends, dinner and wine or brunch. I sing, I practice piano, and I *will* take cello lessons this summer. It’s a charmed life, one that I’m so, so lucky to lead. I think about this every day, with much gratitude.
Goodbye champagne year – you were hard and beautiful and confusing and, oddly, the most stabilizing year of growth I’ve had so far. I feel that I’m ready for 24.