In just over a week, I will turn thirty. I’ve been thinking on this particular birthday a lot over the past few months. Why do we put so much weight on it? Why does it feel like such a big deal? Why don’t I feel ready?
There have been other notable birthdays that have held less weight. Other moments where I’ve seen the importance of age creeping into my life which have caused me little grief. It isn’t even visible signs of getting older that are giving me pause. The moment I looked down at my hands and thought, “These hands could no longer be confused as those belonging to a child. These hands have clearly been places.” In that instant, I felt pride, not fear.
I’ve been technically alive for nearly three decades. During those decades I’ve laughed, cried, breathed, died, and been reborn. I’ve found friends, and lost family. There have been moments when I wished for darkness, and those when I’ve rejoiced in light. Through everything, I’ve written stories on my heart.
And what stories they have been! What a life I have lived. What a unique, and challenging road I have walked.
Part of my struggle with turning thirty is recognizing those very things. I feel as if I have done nothing, become noone. However, that is not the case.
I’ve laid out in the rain, and let the sky cry tears of redemption over me, surrounding me with acceptance, and cleansing away my pain.
I’ve held the hands of my children, but also those of children who are not mine. I’ve been irrevocably changed by the innocence and sweetness of the love of countless small beings who now don’t remember my face. But I remember them, and I love them to this day.
At twenty-one, I became a mother. I was in school, and busy, and unsure. I nursed my baby in bathrooms between college classes, and was told by men in power to just drop out and stay home. I refused. I had professors cradle my daughter when I took tests, and I found in them a moment of tranquility during days fraught with uncertainty. Through that I learned that I could accomplish anything I had the will to make happen.
When it has been necessary I’ve advocated for war. When it has been possible, I’ve begged for peace. There have been times I’ve stood up for others and demanded justice, and times when I’ve felt the shame of backing down too soon out of fear.
My life is full of irrepressible memories. I’ve held many of them close, too afraid to share them; worried about how they might change me, or those around me. This month I will turn thirty, and I feel, for the first time, like my memories are more than just moments in time. They are my stories, and they are mine to own. I bought them with my life, they’ve been paid off in full with time and experience.
Life is messy. There are battles hard won, and those we lose. We sometimes think ourselves bleeding and alone, but often in those moments, when we look up, we see a hand waiting to lift us from the floor. We realize we will get help if we ask; that we will find a kindred spirit in our journey if we are just willing to share.
It’s time for me to share my stories. Time to accept them, learn from them, and allow them to change me, to make me whole. There will be days when doing so will cause me to relive pain, but the lancing of boils is the only way to heal them, to keep them from poisoning the bloodstream. I can’t be afraid of hurting, or of being uncomfortable. I can’t be afraid of experiencing my past through the eyes of my present.
I have thirty years of tales to tell, and they must be told! If I want to write new ones for myself in the years to come instead of reliving the old repeatedly, then now is the time to act boldly. Now is the time to write out my stories. It is time to remove them from my heart, and put them to paper, to expose them for the world to see.