What did you do when you turned 21? Buy some booze? Throw a party? Go on a road-trip? I’m genuinely curious: What are you supposed to do? Because whatever it is, I’m pretty sure I did it wrong. My 21st year announced itself with a puddle of tears soaking through dusty carpet. But don’t worry: This story has a happy ending.
Once upon a time, I couldn’t wait for my birthday. I love celebrating. Deep down, I’m an incredibly festive person. But years of neglect shoved birthdays into a muted, painful corner of my mind. So when my 21st rolled around, I was anxious. I knew people would get notifications about it on social media. Plus, some would ask to meet up, or something. So I was scared.
Because in a way, I’m just a jar of jagged memories. And my birthday shakes the jar. I re-experience years of pain. Old family members who stood by and watched as I suffered for almost two decades suddenly pop up on my phone, pretending all of it never happened. It’s a lot to deal with in one lifetime, let alone one day. So on one hand, I wish the day would never happen.
But on the other hand, my birthday means the world to me. My survival is special. Every day is a gift because I wasn’t supposed to make it this far. Rewind the clock 5 years and ask me where I see myself 5 years from then, and I’d laugh in your face. Because I was almost certain that I’d either be dead, dying, or in prison — which is basically both at the same time. So the fact that I can still celebrate birthdays at all is glorious. They mean a lot to me.
Thus every year on January 15th, it’s a 24-hour internal battle between rejoicing and hiding in the shadows. Which is exactly what brought me to the floor that night when I turned 21. Isn’t 21 a special birthday? Kind of like 16, isn’t it? Yet I was alone, and it was completely my fault.
How did it get this bad? How has this stayed painful, all these years? Honestly, it’s because I prioritize other things over my own wellbeing. I sacrifice myself because I want to do other things so much. There’s a limit to how many plates you can spin at once. If you have too many, you have to drop some. And that’s the hard thing about doing hard things.
What you’re doing is usually so hard that it’s simply not worth the cost. What you get isn’t worth the pain, time, and energy you spend. Of course it feels worth it after we accomplish it, no matter how grueling the journey was. I mean, we have no choice. It’s not like we could turn back the clock and do it differently.
But suppose you could. Suppose you could go back to before you made the sacrifice. Would you actually pay the price, knowing the future outcome? You’ll be surprised how often the answer is “no”. At least, I was.
But here’s the happy ending: I’m still doing it now, every single day. Couldn’t tell you why. I think it’s just in my blood. Although the price of doing hard things isn’t worth it, some hard things are still worth doing, anyway.