With the rising sun the birds also sang the chorus of “This is the Day”. The thirty first of the month was finally upon us, and so began my twenty fourth year.
The day I turned twenty four was a little different for me. For starters, it was the first year I can ever remember feeling that slight sense of dread at my approaching birthday. Twenty three has been so gracious. There has been so much room for mistakes, so much learning, so much of the feeling that it’s okay not to have it all together.
But twenty four. Twenty four is on the brink of mid twenties. My own mother became a mother at twenty four, and several of my friends have already done so. And as far as I knew, my mother was perfect when we were growing up, and at my own twenty four, I am so far from it.
Secondly, I’m a list person by nature. I love writing things down and checking them off, from the grocery list to my five year goals to the components necessary for my dream house. Lists make me feel organized, complete, thought through. My birthdays are usually a time for me to sit down and figure out, what did I do in the last year? Where did I travel? Who did I meet? What did I accomplish?
These questions, usually, are fun for me to answer, when my expectations are low and my head stable. My lists of answers to these questions are my justifications for living, my self assurance that I am a valuable, contributing citizen to society or maybe just to someone. And the lists seem adequate enough, until I realize that they don’t hold a candle to what other people have done at 24.
My mother became a mother when she was twenty four. Noah Webster published a spelling book at twenty four. Steve Jobs founded Apple by age twenty four.
And what have I done?
It’s funny, I guess, when I look at things that way, how what once made me proud: running a half marathon, making tomato sauce from scratch, learning how to use garlic scapes, enrolling in graduate school, make me feel embarrassed that I ever thought they were accomplishments. And I look around the house I have decorated so laboriously, and the first pages of a novel I agonized over for days, and I wonder, what have I done with my life? The question though, is so large and so unanswerable, that I succumb to discouragement and drown my disappointment in the scroll board of Pinterest.
This birthday though, there was no time for lists, because from the time the birds started singing to the cricket’s final call, I was enfolded and overwhelmed with love. It’s hard, really, to be anything but thankful when I’m woken up by the person who loves me with pillow creases and crazy hair to be reminded it’s my birthday. And it’s hard to think of all I’ve done and left undone when my first smells of the day are a bouquet of roses, and my first drink hot tea in a cup gifted with love to remind me of a country I’ll always think mine.
It’s hard to think on all I haven’t done yet in life when Andrew makes cinnamon rolls for breakfast- the warm and gooey kind that leave no room for any emotion but enjoyment.
It’s hard to wish I had different opportunity, different talent, different anything when I talk on the phone and on FaceTime to those I grew up under and with. It’s hard, when I’m reminded of how I shared so many days with such beautiful people, to ever wish upon myself anything different.
Maybe they’ll be time for accomplishing and doing later this year, but that’s hard to think about stretched out on a dock on a lake, laughing because what he just said was funny, but also because he still makes me laugh. And maybe one day I’ll do something worthwhile, but really, is there anything more worthwhile than truly enjoying the sun in the sky and the way it warms the skin?
Maybe there’s really nothing more accomplished or worthwhile about life than really giving thanks- for each smile, breath, and beat of the heart. Maybe I should keep dreaming about achieving, about seeing my name in flashing letters or about hearing the words, “Well done”. But on this birthday, I hadn’t really done anything, except be born, and it was one of the happiest days I’ve known.
I might not be rich in fame or fortune, and I’ve certainly never mastered a dozen languages or an instrument. But I’ve seen sunsets and cobwebs, tiny fingerprints and old eyes. Is there anything, really, more worthwhile, than beholding the mysteries of this life, and giving only thanks in return?
And is there anything more life giving, more courageous, more noble, than to wake up with the birds, singing “This is the Day”, choosing to face each morning with joy?
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24