I’ve always felt ambiguous about birthdays. I’d close my eyes and go to bed on August 26th every year hoping, but not truly expecting, to wake up the next morning feeling – different.
I get this question a lot: How are you only XX years old?
I began school in San Jose where September was the enrollment cut-off. We moved to Austin (on my eight birthday) and that is where I grew up for my most impressionable years. Very sweet of you to assume I’m a genius who skipped a grade, because I’m not.
The point is, I’ve never felt excited about turning a certain age because I was always the last one in my group to do so.
Each birthday felt like a mile marker in a race where I was constantly two steps behind the crowd:
……..16 Congrats, you don’t have to carry your golf clubs from class to class and carpool to get to golf practice
………18 Go vote, buy a lottery ticket, and a package of cigarettes (just because you can)
………21 It’s a miracle you made it, but you can legally drink now*
Last weekend, I celebrated my 24th birthday with a group of successful, stunning, older women (excluding CT the outlier – she’s 24 too). They are 29, 30, and 31 respectively so not old by any means – just older than me. I can honestly say they are way more fun than my friends who are closer to my own age, but this doesn’t come as a surprise after listening to their stories.
All three dated the same guy on and off during their 20s.
They were afraid to be single. Boyfriends turned into fiances and husbands and slowly their circle of friends shrunk smaller and smaller. Each knew they had compatibility issues in core values with the person they were dating, but ignored them in favor of “special” things they believed they would never find with someone else. In short, they would rather settle than be alone.
They were not fun. They allowed the guys in their life to dictate their actions. I use the word allowed judiciously because by no means were they forced to be a certain way. Wants never turned into tangible outcomes because these wants were stupid, valueless, and meaningless in the eyes of their significant other.
They were insecure. Even worse, they allowed the guys in their life to define their self-image. Their voices became so small. Like parrots in a cage, repeating their masters diction, wondering if and when he would speak to them again. It’s been 8 hours and he still hasn’t texted me back. I know he’s out with his friends. He’s probably cheating on me. I should call him. He didn’t pick up. He’s probably cheating on me. Or worse, we had an AMAZING night and he hasn’t contacted me at all today, it’s probably because I’m not good enough in X, Y, or Z aspect. Like a broken record, played over and over again eroding their self-esteem with every turn.
To be clear, by no means do I believe the guy was to blame for these outcomes, but being with the wrong person sure makes life a hell of a lot harder. In time, each one has since completely separated from their ex-flames, viewed the world through their own lenses, and crafted a passionate life full of doing what they want. Thus, it’s not shocking to see why they are my “fun friends” and makes me wonder in 5 years how things might change with my friends who are closer to my age.
It is super refreshing being surrounded by confident ladies. Very little time and energy is spent agonizing over boys and insecurity is squashed immediately. We are able to focus on the present and living every moment to it’s fullest. I am thankful that they are 1000 steps ahead of me because I can learn from their journeys, see a different path – and no longer feel the pressure to sprint to catch up with friends that are closer to my age but on a more conventional track.
When I am with this group of ladies, the conversation always manages to take a deep and profound turn. We may be at a pool party in Vegas, surrounded by tweens at EDM concerts, but the timing is always appropriate to share personal stories of lessons learned or ask serious questions about what we want out of life.
So here I am telling a long-winded story just to build up to this one simple question (typical)…
“Mei, now that your 24, how will this year be different?”
I sit facing the birthday cake, about the blow out the candle, 3 sets of wise owl eyes staring me down with bated breath, say something deep…good thing I’ve already thought about this…
“Well, I did wake up Friday morning and think, I’m 24 and too old to be insecure. Also, this year I want to be CREATIVE and not like artsy, like truly CREATE something from scratch that I am passionate about.”
“A BABY” – CT (24 year old comedic interjection NOT appreciated – kind of sort of)
“*Curse word or two inserted here towards CT* I was thinking a blog would be a good start. I’ve been into blogs since freshman year of college, and they have had a huge impact in my life. I’ve always wanted to start my own and even reserved this URL my junior year of college. I feel like a blog would enable me to find my voice, not sure what I would write about specifically but I have some topics brainstormed.”
A BLOG IS BORN.
* For another blog post, I guess.
Here’s a picture of the crew from the birthday dinner @ Celeste in Chicago:
Candle blown. Wishes wished. Meinalisasmiles here: