I am not typically the kind of person who has a problem with my birthday.
Except this year.
Right now, I’m staring at the clock, watching the next 51 minutes tick away.
I guess 30 is the usual birthday marking some universal female aging crisis. Apparently, 35 is the age all of my single girlfriends are planning on freezing their eggs so they don’t feel so barren. They invited me to take part in this plan, I’m still on the fence though, thinking I’d probably be more likely to run off to tend to orphan elephants or orangutangs or to walk the circumference of the globe twice if I haven’t rooted myself down with babies and a 401K and other such white picket fence ideals by the age of 35. Still, its good to have options, especially when you are the brink of an aging crisis.
Here’s the problem: I’m not turning 30. I’m turning 28, and for some reason, I am not happy about it. This is a bad sign.
Earlier tonight, I confessed to AS that I wished I was turning 23 instead. She asked why, saying that maturity was HOT and then told me to think about everything I know now that I didn’t know then. She has a point.
Still, I enjoyed telling people I was 23. Now, every time I think of telling someone I’m 28, I can feel the gag reflex activate in the back of my throat. That’s not going to help me finding a boyfriend…
But, I don’t think 23 is necessarily the answer. Sometimes I feel like there is a full lifetime of experience between my 23-year-old self and my soon to be 28-year-old self and the very idea of going back to 23 is exhausting. Still, as I sit here fumbling with the anti-wrinkle cream in my mom’s medicine cabinet, I can’t pretend I wouldn’t be tempted….on the condition I go back knowing everything I know now.
Just in case one of those Freaky Friday incidents spins me back in time, trapping me in my 23-year-old self at the stroke of midnight, I figured I would play it safe and write a letter of everything 23-year-old me needs to know…
Please don’t judge me for this fear. We just landed on Mars. Weird shit happens every day. I could get trapped in my old self and forced to relive the past 5 years all over again – if that happens, I want to up the ante in the second round of my early 20’s.
You’re young. You’re prettier than you give yourself credit for being. You are loved, treasured and delightful. You’ve got a good thing going with your life. Let’s not fuck this up, shall we?
There are few basic truths in life, not as many black and whites as you’d always expected there to be, the world exists in many shades of gray and several dimensions at that. Don’t go around thinking you know everything about anything, specifically: love, God, human nature, and other people’s relationships. These are just a few things which you’ll never know that much about. Let that not make you feel like a fool. You’re smart. You are honest. You have a true heart and a killer work ethic and are just as valuable as any speck of carbon can hope to be on this planet. Hold tightly to your sense of empowerment, should you lose your grasp on it, you’ll spend many months in self-depreciating darkness. That is not a place you want to go, trust me.
Your heart is made of glass – like the Blondie song. It is going to shatter, break and slice through your soft viscera until you feel like everything between your esophagus and your colon is a boiling bloody scramble. You can’t stop it. You can’t fix it. You need to understand that it happens. Then, cut yourself some slack. Don’t hate yourself for being heartbroken; that’s when you need to love yourself the most.
The price of an epic heartbreak sounds high, doesn’t it? All that boiling bloody mess gurgling around you like some emotional acid reflux? So gross. You won’t believe or understand it, but you must trust me when I say it is worth it. An epic heartbreak means you have epically loved. Erin, if there is one thing you are great at, it is love. You love so hard, it hurts; it hurts to even think about it. But the pain is part of the beauty. You don’t fear love. You pretend you do. It is a nice front you put up, but you don’t need it – everyone sees right through your act. No one believes the hardened skeptic facade. You were born to love the world. It is a great calling, to hold the capacity to love the whole world in your chest. If you were a superhero, boundless compassion and empathy would be your powers. Yeah, some people get to fly, other people can turn invisible, you get compassion and empathy; life’s not fair. Just do the best with the cards you’re dealt, they really aren’t so bad.
Along the lines of life not being fair. It isn’t. You should accept that one and let it go. Otherwise, you’ll be on the brink of your 28th birthday still throwing a fit about the unfairness of it all, still wishing the cookie would crumble into equal halves. There is always a bigger half. Let it go.
Be sweet. There’s really no reason not to.
Maintain a healthy fear, but never let it stop you. All of your scars will heal. You can (and will) depend on the kindness of strangers. You’ll travel and it will be great. Taste the local flavors, unless someone offers you blow-fish (sorry, that is just never a good idea) and be weary of any thing fried you buy at a gas station….actually, just don’t buy food at gas stations.
Lay in the grass and count the stars with your lover. Even if it is raining and the grass is wet. You’ll treasure that memory for years to come.
You have more power over the way people treat you than you know. Kindly teach them to treat you well, but do not tolerate cruelty or indifference.
Wear your helmet when you ride your bike. Do not eat M&Ms you find under your car’s floor mats because that is seriously gross, dude. Throwing food scraps off your back porch is not considered “composting.” Never make a boy a scrapbook. Practice playing guitar. Don’t bring your phone into the bathroom or you will drop it into the toilet. Floss your teeth!
Don’t get in cars with strangers. Nothing bad happens to you, but it is a terrible idea. Just stop doing it.
Don’t underestimate yourself; you are capable of overcoming great loss and accepting wonderful blessings with grace and poise. On the flip side, you will often over-estimate yourself. You’ll think you are faster, smarter and more public-transit savvy than you really are. Go ahead and keep this edge, you’ll get some great stories out of taking the wrong trains.
Try to be patient. You won’t be able to do it, but it is worth a try.
And enjoy the hell out of being 23. One of these days you’ll be old enough to know better. You’ll sit at a bar with an old friend and laugh at how hard the 23-year-olds are trying. It actually gets easier. You’ll see.