I didn’t really want to celebrate my birthday this year, except that I did. For the first time I think ever, I didn’t want a party – and I love nothing more than a good party. But I was afraid that if I was to celebrate with all the trappings of a typical birthday: cake, balloons, a song as I hoped I could blow out all the candles in one go, that all I would be able to think about was what I’d lost the year before, who couldn’t join in the festivities. Then, I was afraid, the cake would taste stale, I’d drink a few too many glasses of sweet red wine, and I would end the night with a pounding headache and unshakeable sadness settled in my chest.
A few months ago, I was toying with the idea of escaping for my birthday. So one night, I just did it, booking nonstop flights to and from San Francisco. It took a minute for me to get the courage to press “purchase” on the largest purchase I’d ever made on a credit card, and after I did, I texted my mother frantically, still needing parental assurance that a pair of flights wouldn’t resign me to credit card debt for the rest of my life.
(I’ve already paid the flights off.)
The fact that I booked a return ticket from San Francisco is remarkable in and of itself – a quiet unease is growing each time I return to Washington. I love it here, but it no longer feels like home. My heart is full each time I wander its streets, but a small voice inside my head wonders, constantly, what else is in the world for me to explore.
24 sucked. It was terrible in the ways that I’ve explored on this blog before, and it was hard in ways that I’m sure I have yet to even fully grasp. It was awful, it was painful, it was a downright ugly year that, as I look back on it, seems only to exist in reds and shadows. While I’m sure they were there, I can’t find any moments of light as I scour my memories, only angry, vividly scary recollections.
Somehow, 25 already feels different. It’s a number I like better on paper – I’ve always enjoyed the sharp, defined edges of prime numbers. They’re not as conciliatory and easygoing as even integers. They’re harder to work with, more sure of themselves, less quick to make life easier for everyone else around them. I like 25’s sass, I like its sense of self, I like its confidence.
That’s all I want out of this year, truly : to find my footing, to find my edge. I want to regain the confidence before 24 shook me to my core. I don’t want to apologize, or to make concessions simply because that’s how I think I should act. I want to live with a smile on my face, to turn down a happy hour invitation to cook soup alone, to spend an afternoon hiking a mountain by myself because that’s when I feel most like myself. I want to write well, I want to sing poorly. I want to run, but I also want to sleep in one Saturday morning, mileage be damned. I want to live.
There are so many reasons I’m looking forward to this year, so many places I want to take the next twelve months of my life. I have a small, secret feeling, way deep down, that it’s going to be a damn good year. I’m afraid to admit it out loud, afraid to speak that small bit of hope and positivity into the air in case I look at it directly and it goes away. But I do – I sense that something big is coming, that I can push myself to the heights I’ve been afraid to explore.
San Francisco was my first small taste of my motto for 25 : to just move. Just go. Just explore! Just stay up too late writing, because the end product moves me to a place I want to be, to a goal I want to accomplish. Just apply. Just take the test. Just make the list of seemingly unattainable goals. Just test yourself. Just move.
The weekend seemed to be spent celebrating my ability to move. We walked an hour to dinner one night. The next day, I ran five miles into an unspeakably strong headwind. The day after, on my feet, wine tasting in Napa (okay, not physically taxing, but definitely excellent).
Capping it all was a Sunday afternoon spent biking up the sharp, steep hills of San Francisco, pedaling across the Golden Gate Bridge, fighting the winds and the bikes careening toward me in the other direction. It was challenging – my legs ached, the hills seemed to continue to rise endlessly, the wind was determined to push my bike backwards. But when we reached the other side of the bridge, I was momentarily speechless at the beauty spread before me : on one side, the shining, gleaming city skyline. On the other, a sapphire blue dotted by white-capped waves, craggy cliffs roaring overhead. I’d made it. I’d fought the wind, I’d conquered the hills, I was breathless and sweaty, but I’d made it. When we rode back the way we’d come, the headwind was gone and it was downhill the entire way home.