Happy Birthday To Me

I’ve had a birthday since the last time we spoke. It was a pretty big one, too.

I turned thirty.

Thirty.

I know the typical reactions to those digits tend to be ones of fear or at least a rapid uptick in blood pressure as we start to ask ourselves, “What in the world am I actually doing?” However, I’ve been looking forward to this one. I’ve managed to cram a ton of life into my thirty years, the details of which I’ll save for my memoir if I ever write one, and in doing so, I grew up pretty fast. Even as a child, I gravitated to the adults in a room and didn’t shy away from trying to participate in whatever most astute and mature conversation they were having. Precocious is what they called me, and while I appreciated the recognition that I was able, on some level, to “hang with the big dogs”, there was always a little laugh or a little flippancy hidden in the corner of their smile.

At some point in childhood, we all become aware of the thirty milestone and what awaits us on the other side. Often joked about, a dress-rehearsal for the even more feared “over the hill”, thirty has its fair share of foreboding whispers.

Once you leave your twenties you’re not young anymore. You’re a “real” adult now.

While some of my peers may have slapped a big ole warning label on the distant “thirty” in their psyche, my eyes lit up. Thirty! That’s what I want. That’s what I’ve been waiting for. I want to be thirty. I want to be an indisputable adult. I want the mantle of respect and acceptance of my adult peers. I want the simpering smiles and chuckle of surprise when I speak to stop so that my words are actually heard.

Now, I’m not naive. I know now that my initial idea of what turning thirty would mean isn’t how the world works. There will always be someone older than me, assuming that wiser is a given. And I’m okay with that. I welcome the opportunity to give them something to think about.

I know that what was and is beyond thirty is entirely what I make of it. Thirty is youthful and wise. It’s hopeful and serious. It’s excited and prepared. It’s believing in your dreams in a solid way. Tying the balloon of imagination to a platform where it can take root in reality. It’s earlier nights and earlier mornings. It’s coffee, but even more water. It’s recognizing health as a privilege and something you have to work to maintain. It’s looking back at the last thirty years in appreciation for their tempo, and not allowing it to quicken as you continue.

The years ahead of me are sweet. There will be inevitable bites of bitterness, but growth and development follow closely on its heels. When I close my eyes, I imagine a little girl hunched over a pile of kindling. She is rocked by sudden gusts of wind that threaten the ember she is coaxing to life. As she grows before my eyes, the flame rises and the soft fibers of wood begin to burn. The young lady carefully places twigs around her fire, feeding it, nurturing it. As she turns to retrieve a larger branch, the light catches her face and you see the fine lines forming on her brow and in the creases of her eyes. She slowly sets the log on the growing fire before her. She does so with such meticulous care that you worry her hand will burn. How can she bear to stand so close? But as the wood hits the flame, it ignites and sparks fly. The woman steps back, watching the fire she has created and mothered into strength. And she smiles, feeling the heavy presence of the mountain of fuel set beside her.

Thirty isn’t the finish line of youth. It’s not the end of anything. I carry forth what I know, and my lust for life and all its treasures just like any other day. Thursday was no different than Tuesday. I’m still feeding my kids, I’m still running the laundry, I’m still writing.

But still, I’m thirty.

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The Beginning

Let’s start at the very beginning — a very good place to start. In the beginning, there were words. Well, not really words so much as grunts and whoops, but the sentiment is the same. Grunts, whoops, and yes, words are all about communication. Those guttural utterances began an evolution of communication that we are still experiencing. And we aren’t just doing it collectively as a species, but also individually. Each of us began much the same as our ancestors, squawking and crying out to convey our needs and emotions. We learned, over time, to manipulate the muscles of our mouths and throat to create spoken words. We learned the words our society had given to things around us. Actions, places, feelings, desires, the real, and the imagined. The transition from mere sound to weighted words happens in the blink of an eye all to convey meaning and purpose to the world around us and of the world within us.
That’s where I come in. From a young age, I recognized the magic of words. How each one was a piece to a puzzle that, once completed, could reveal a dazzling picture with such detail and nuance that whole worlds could spring to life in my mind as if they were real places I’d been or people I’d met. The small, rickety bookshelf in my room quickly filled with my tiny collection of universes. Imagine being able to survey and select whichever universe you wished to visit. A small gesture of the hand, and it would open to you, invite you inside, and you could fall in and lose yourself in the cosmos created out of nothing, born from someone else’s mind.

I quickly discovered that I didn’t want to be a mere observer of these worlds. No sideline sitting for this girl. No, I wanted to become a Creator. I wanted to learn how to craft a realm of humanity that didn’t exist anywhere else but my consciousness and then pull it from myself and pour it onto a page for someone else to witness.

And so I’ve crept toward that goal, little by little, for most of my life. Sometimes at an agonizing pace when I doubt I moved much at all, and sometimes sprinting so fast I can’t make my fingers, pen, mind move fast enough. I’ve learned so much about the craft of wordsmithing and barely scratched the surface. I know rules, and intimately how to break them. But most of all, I’ve learned how deeply I truly love the act of writing. I love that when I close my eyes and release the floodgates words appear. They tumble out of the recesses of my mind and I rush to find something with which to catch them before they fall through my fingers like a sieve to be lost in puddles of creativity at my feet. Sure, I could still splash in them, but they won’t ever carry the great force of momentum as they did at the start.

I think of this blog as a playground. Not the playground that just popped into your head when you read that, but what a playground really is. Mine has swings and slides and plenty of space to run and jump and play, but hidden in those innocent actions is an exercise of development. Every time I pump my legs and bring that swing up higher than I’ve ever dared before, I learn my limits are beyond what I expected. Each time I practice at the monkey bars and make it one rung further, I’ve stretched my endurance and bolstered my belief in myself. Here, you are watching me play — but you are also watching me grow. There will be triumphs, and there will be failures, but through both – and everything in between – there will undoubtedly be growth. And words. Always words.