“How does it feel to be 25?”
I have been understandably asked this many times in the past few days, usually amended to “almost 25”. I usually respond with some variation of “Pretty much like how it feels to be 24.” That is, by and large, the truth. I don’t change at any different pace on my birthday than I do any other day. Hopefully every day I live will change something about me, but maturity only becomes apparent over a span of years not of hours. And yet…
It would also be true to say that it does feel different. On your birthday the world feels extraordinary even when you do ordinary things. And when it’s a milestone birthday (such as 25) the feeling seems to increase ever so slightly. So, to actually answer the question with a real answer, this is how 25 feels:
25 is the middle of middle age. It is half of 50, which is half of 100. It is a long time since I was a child, but still a long time before I can be considered truly old. It’s perhaps somewhat appropriate that this is the first birthday I’ve spent without Mom being home and essentially having to figure out for myself how I’m going to celebrate. Still living at home, still appreciating all my mother does for me, but transitioning to independent adulthood. 25 feels like the age of halfway.
I was given my first surprise party on Saturday. I went over to my friend’s house and walked into his kitchen only to have most but not all my best friends throwing at least 25 balloons at me and singing “Happy Birthday To You”. We played games, we ate food, we talked well into the night. 25 feels like love and acceptance and laughter—and like being toasted by apple juice in wine glasses.
How strange we are. We celebrate birthdays as if they are a beginning. “Now you’re 25.” But I am not embarking on my 25th year. I am completing it. Do a little thinking and you’ll realize that we get a new number to mark how many years we’ve lived, not to mark which one we’re on. But it seems more natural this way, to celebrate rebirth despite mathematics, because really you are starting a new year of life. 25 feels like making a beginning out of an ending.
“What goals have you met, or what have you achieved?”
One of my friends asked me that on Saturday. I found I couldn’t answer the way I wanted to: cleverly and with grace. The truth is, there are some things I hoped to have done and I haven’t been able to; sometimes for reasons outside my control, sometimes just because of me. But there are things I can say I have accomplished and accomplished well. There are still things in my life that I had hoped to be rid of, and things not in my life that I had hoped to have. Dichotomy is one of life’s essences.
I have graduated from college with an Associate’s Degree in Creative Writing and a fairly good grade point average; a step up from my early high school days when it was a struggle to finish homework at all let alone on time, and days I simply refused to go to school. On the other hand, graduation was almost a year ago and I still haven’t found a job…
I have written a first draft of a novel. It was blogged as I wrote it and I had the experience of having readers, feedback, and that wonderful sense of accomplishment that comes with the end of a good story. On the other hand, I have made it to 25 without knowing what a girl’s hand feels like in mine (probably sweaty after five minutes) or in fact even asking someone out on a date…
April 12 reminds me most of my birthday, but it also reminds me of other significant anniversaries. My favourite is that today marks the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s spaceflight—the first time a human being left Earth’s atmosphere and orbited the planet in zero gravity. The flight lasted 1 hour and 48 minutes from launch to landing. An incredible achievement to be sure, and one that would be hard for anyone to top. I almost certainly won’t see the Earth from orbit in my lifetime. But I have seen the stars on a summer’s night, and a moving pinpoint that we were sure must have been the International Space Station, without an urban glow. I’ve looked up into them while lying down on my back and feeling as immense as God and as small as myself at the same time.
I cannot honestly say that I am where I want to be, nor where I probably should be. Am I where I expected to be? Perhaps that is halfway to the truth.
“What would you do if you knew you only had one day or one week or one month to live? What lifeboat would you grab onto? What secret would you tell? What band would you see? What person would you declare your love to? What wish would you fulfil? What exotic locale would you fly to for coffee? What book would you write?”
Those were the closing words of a movie I watched not long ago. What if this is the last birthday I ever get to celebrate? Would I have left anything undone? Of course I would have. There are always things we have left undone, no matter how old we live to be. There will forever be unfulfilled goals. But we can’t afford to live without hoping we will get to them all, or else we risk not getting to any. For some reason I feel like doing things this year and making sure I record them. Maybe I’ll share one or two of them here along the way.
Before my next birthday I want to have another novel written. Or at least mostly written. It has been too long since my last one. I want that feeling of accomplishment again. I want to tell one of those stories that has been sitting in the drawer for much longer than it should have. I want to have something I can be proud of, that can be good enough to pass around to agents and publishers in the fragile hope of beginning my chosen career.
Before my next birthday I want to learn how to love unconditionally. I want to be ready for whatever girl may sweep me off my feet and be able to return the favour. I want to be able to do more than accept what I see as her shortcomings, and celebrate them as part of what makes her so unique. I want to be able to lavish her with the affection she will deserve. And I hope she would be able to forgive me in those moments when I fall short of such a lofty goal.
Before my next birthday I want to know my God more intimately than I do now. I want to have read His Word and dwelt upon His Word every day. I want to worship Him by doing His will, letting Him guide every step of my life, and using the gifts He has given me to use. I want to be closer to Him than to anyone else, and I want everyone else to see it.
One of the games at the party Saturday night involved mixing and matching different questions and answers, with strange and often hilarious results. The best question of the night: “What would you do if it was your 25th birthday?” The response: “I would get down on my knees and pray for my life.” No matter how much we chuckle at it now, it could never be as funny for me as when I first heard it. Probably because every time I remember it, I wonder if it isn’t as random an answer as it seems, if there isn’t some truth to the idea.
My birthday comes in the spring. We are halfway out of of the stark, crisp beauty of winter and halfway into the warm, clear joy of summer. It is quite possibly the best time of year to be born. The world is changing and with every birthday that passes I find that, however slowly, I am too. A quarter of a century sounds grand. But I have had two great-grandparents live just about a century each. Suddenly it only seems like the start of something grander. Still, none of us knows what will happen tomorrow. So we may as well celebrate today.
Today I am 25. It feels like change. It feels like a beginning and an ending. It feels like an adventure. It feels different and extraordinary. It wouldn’t feel like any of those things without the people who love me or the God who made me. I am thankful for both, this day and every day.
Happy Birthday to me.