Age twenty-one and I left things off on a sour note. Don’t get me wrong, I loved twenty-one for what it was. However, the culminating days leading up to my birthday this year were, frankly, grim and heavy. I felt heartbroken, alone, insecure, frustrated. I let my emotions get the best of me and it started to affect me physically. Twenty-one ended with me sick and sad, before literally hitting rock-bottom. (I won’t go into details, as the people who need to know what happened already know).
Two days before I turned twenty-two, as I waited in a doctor’s office, I glanced over at an empty stool and struck up a conversation with Jesus (and also, probably, my own subconscious).
“Sarah, look where you are. You know you don’t want to be here and I don’t want you here.” — “You’re right. I don’t want to be here. This isn’t fair and I’m not going to let this run my life anymore. I don’t want to end up in this place again.” (By place, I mean emotionally; the doctor and staff were nothing but helpful and pleasant, five stars.) I left that doctor’s office reassured of at least one thing: it could only go up from here. And it did.
I was able to rest. I opened up to my friends the very next day and was met with nothing but love and support. My body felt at peace. My community brought me a sense of complete contentment.
The day of my birthday, I couldn’t do much physically, other than rest and reflect. I started to think about the expectations I had for myself entering twenty-two. On paper, my expectations would look like they were met with only disappointment. Still no degree, no longer in a relationship, no clear idea on a set career path. And so for twenty-two, I’m choosing to redefine those expectations into new opportunities: I still have so much more to learn, so much more love to give, so much more work to do.
That same night, I invited over some of my closest friends (my true partners-in-crime, you know who you are). While I had begun to open up to them about my life during the week, each of them would ask me the same question: “So, what are we doing for your birthday then?!”. Selfishly, I knew I might need a distraction from the upset that I wasn’t spending my birthday how I thought I would, so I didn’t hesitate in accepting their company.
But those girls were, are, and always will be more than a distraction, and they made my birthday better than any fancy dinner ever could have. They shouted Taylor Swift’s song ’22’ at me while I filmed them from the couch, embodying every lyric; it’s a video I will keep forever. We watched my favorite episode of New Girl. I cried from laughing instead of sadness for the first time in what felt like a lifetime. Every ounce of me that had been emptied over the course of the past few days was filled up instantly and then some. And every day has been better since.
So, thank you to the friends who brought me flowers, made me homemade soup, picked up ice cream, checked up on me, sent me memes and everything else in between. You all made me feel loved and valued.
As most of Sacramento probably has noticed, fall has started to settle in for the season. Some of the leaves have already trickled down to the concrete floors of my neighborhood. One of those little fellows found himself trapped in my windshield blades on a fateful afternoon. For maybe a day, or two, he accompanied me on my drives to work and around on errands. After a few drives, I started to wonder how he had yet to fly off of my windshield and land somewhere new. As cheesy as this (definitely) seems, I began to see myself in that fragile autumn leaf. Maybe he wanted to stay there, despite the harsh wind and the tossing and turning. Maybe he wanted to take the ride and experience it for himself before choosing to float away and land back on the ground where he knew he would end up anyways.
I can relate to that.
That’s what twenty-one felt like. Falling from a place of comfort, settling in, taking the ride, knowing it would run it’s course, landing back on solid ground. But I don’t regret it. Those rides taught me a lot and showed me a lot about myself. Some good, some bad, some definitely ugly, but all myself just the same.
In a more real sense, the other day during my ride to work, I found myself dancing in my seat. This is a normal occurrence, nothing out of the usual, but I felt refreshed. Finally, some sense of normalcy. A sense of carrying on and living life how it had been before all of the grief and sickness and sadness. A glimmer of light nearing the end of the tunnel.
Truthfully, I’m a little terrified of what this next year will bring. Not terrified like shaking-in-my-boots-terrified. More like that feeling you get on rides like Tower of Terror, when you are floating and your stomach is in knots because you know you are about to free-fall. I can feel all of the craziness beneath me at twenty-two but I’m still floating. This feeling will probably come, time and time again I’m sure; I can only hope that I can learn to embrace the fall and enjoy the ride.
So, here’s to twenty-two everyone. As Taylor Swift would recommend, here’s to dressing up like hipsters, breakfast at midnight, and making fun of our exes.