When I got sick five years ago, my birthday became synonymous with hospitals.
One year I had internal bleeding so bad, I was a millimeter’s measurement from urgently needing blood transfusions.
Then there was the year I got a spinal tap and it took six jabs to finally get it right.
Another year, I got an emergency back to back colonoscopy and endoscopy.
This year, I was at the emergency veterinary hospital at 4am because my service dog had an allergic reaction to flea medication and per the vet, was acting like he od’ed on something. He’s okay now, but it was a scary situation, nonetheless.
All of this unpleasantness associated with my birthday got me thinking…”in all of these years, what’s some good that’s come out of it? What’ve I learned that might help someone else out?”
Well, the end result is this post.
I’ve been wanting to write an enlightened post about what a birthday means to me, but when it came down to it, I just wanted to write twenty-six truths I’ve come to find particularly relevant this year. Some have taken me a while to come to terms with, others are my own comical observations. Some are realizations that’ve come with age, and the rest are just things I’ve lived through & (hopefully) learned from.
A fun fact before I get started: this year my birthday was 25 hours long because it fell on Daylight Saving Time. The last time this happened I turned 21. Talk about having the longest birthday of the year, twice! Well, twice that I’ve known about it; having an early November birthday, I’m sure it’s happened before/will happen again.
SO, without further adieu, here are my birthday truths:
- You can’t please everyone; the sooner you stop trying to, the easier it will be to find your own purpose and happiness in life.
- There is a reason behind every single experience you have; don’t doubt its relevance, even if it’s fleeting, even if you don’t understand its significance at that moment, it’s important.
- Loss is a natural part of life. The pain you feel is a reminder that you’re still alive; if you ever doubt that, put your hand on your heart.
- You have one body – treat it with respect. Cellulite, stretch marks, freckles, weight fluctuations – whatever your insecurities are, know everyone has them at some point in their lives, and that’s okay. Why is it babies with chunky thighs are “so damn cute,” but adults with the same are “gross?” Take a second to appreciate the body that you have, because it is unique and the only one you’ve got.
- Social media is but a carefully curated highlight reel; find inspiration in others’ highlights, but also seek out inspiration off the screen, too.
- Bangs are always a good idea, just have a bobby pin or two at the ready…and if you haven’t done it before, have a professional cut them, because avant garde bangs are hard to pull off (trust me, been there, don’t do that).
- Friendships are worth investing in, but you have to recognize people invest in them in different ways (time, gifts, acts of service, etc.).
- On that same note, not all friendships last forever, and that’s okay. Some happen for a reason, others for a season, and some endure for a lifetime (the gist of this is probably from a Pinterest quote, but it’s a good one!).
- Work hard at everything you do – your reputation and your work ethic are all you have professionally, so make it count.
- The love to/from an animal is unmatched; having someone other than myself to take care of when I was initially diagnosed, and later when I returned to law school, is what got me through some really tough times. You can’t feel sorry for yourself when someone else needs you.
- Speaking of love, there are different kinds of love when it comes to relationships. Some are there to teach you how to grow up, others are carefree and spontaneous, and some are the mature ones that endure the test of time. Each time I’ve found love, I haven’t been looking for it, but it’s been exactly what I’ve needed in that moment. So give it time if you’re still looking, enjoy it if you have it, and cherish its memory if that love is no longer around.
- Don’t text or call when you’re angry. Some things are better left written down, or better yet, said in the morning with a more clear mind.
- That being said though, take risks with your heart. In my experience, it’s better to have loved and lost, than to be filled with the regret of “what if.” I’m glad I sent a singing Christmas card to tell this guy in college how much I liked him, because even though we never dated (much to my 21 year old self’s dismay), he’s one of the coolest guy friends I have.
- Trust your gut, even if something or someone is telling you otherwise. Whether it’s red flags with someone new you’re dating, or a funky taste in your food at a restaurant, you’re probably not wrong.
- Time doesn’t heal all wounds (contrary to many an Instagram quote), but it does help the scars fade. Trust the process, and if you ever need a reminder that you’re not the only person dealing with xyz, Google “life after (insert what’s hurting you now).” I did this each and every time I’ve been diagnosed with something, breakups, dealing with death, whatever. I may not know the people on the message boards and elsewhere on the internet, but I’ve found solace knowing that I’ll be able to get through it because someone else in the world has, too.
- You can’t overdo “I love you’s.” Say it with candor and frequency, because you truly never know when you’ll run out of opportunities to do so.
- Take opportunities to travel whenever possible; the people you’ll meet, the places you’ll see, and the experiences you’ll cultivate are worth the investment.
- Never be too proud to say “I’m sorry.” Plain and simple. You’re human, you will make mistakes, and one of the bravest things you can do is acknowledge when you’re wrong (because you won’t always be right).
- Learn when to speak up, and when to listen. Sometimes the latter is the most difficult, but can prove more powerful in the long-run.
- Recognize the difference between working to live and living to work. Sometimes we don’t have a choice, but if you do, seek opportunities to create meaningful work that gives you a sense of purpose.
- Sometimes it’s easy to fall in love; the hard part is standing in love when things get difficult. That’s when you know you’ve got a partner worth fighting for, when, even when things get difficult, they’re there alongside you. That is something more valuable than all the Tiffany diamonds and Barefoot Dreams blankets in the world (but as an aside, those blankets are bomb…and always on sale at Nordstrom Rack. You’re welcome).
- It’s okay to ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness; if anything, it’s a sign of strength to recognize your own limitations.
- Do good in the world without acknowledgement. Hold open that door for the next person, give back to your local charity or organization (time, money, stuff, etc.), give a compliment and mean it. It doesn’t take anything to be kind, but that one act of kindness might mean everything to someone else.
- Sometimes walking away instead of engaging in conflict is the best way to come to a resolution. It doesn’t mean you give up; it means you recognize your worth and are unwilling to compromise that.
- It’s never to late to bring about change in your life. Healthy food choices, exercise, kinder words – whatever it may be, you don’t need a January 1st or birthday to start something new.
- You get to choose how you live your life. Whether you pick positivity or negativity, that is up to you.
I know I don’t need a birthday as a reason to initiate change, but I’d be lying if I said this year’s been a cakewalk. My 2018 had a tumultuous start (to say the least), and the stress hasn’t really let up, what with finishing up law school, taking the bar exam, navigating some serious health issues, and all of the life in-between.
That being said, I hope I can keep showing people that being a good person starts with yourself. How you treat yourself and others directly affects how others will treat you. While you may not always get kindness in return, that shouldn’t matter. You can only control how you interact with the world, and maybe if there’s enough kindness permeating the world we live in today, we’ll start to see change that can’t (and hasn’t been able to) materialize otherwise.