Imagine if you will, a day much like any other, in which you wake up and feel differently than you ever have before… Has this ever happened to you, without a specific reason to pinpoint the shift in how reality appeared before you?
In the days of our youth, we wake up once a year with the expectation that we will somehow experience that very moment in time. We go to sleep on the eve of our birthday with wide-eyed anticipation for the sun’s first light bringing with it some tremendous, unknown change in how our life is going to feel to us. Over the years, of course, our excitement for this magical moment grows dim as we slowly discover what life’s all about. We lose our sense of wonder as we’re taught that magic isn’t real. The older we get, the less fantasy and awe we come to expect from our birthdays. In fact, we grow so complacent about life’s predictability that we create a world in which life is merely just that: predictable. Unchanging. And we slowly morph into the same boring grown ups we swore that we’d never become. All those years of being told, “Just wait; someday you’ll see what I mean, kid.” …They were, admittedly, right.
This will be the first year I’ve ever had to remind myself that it’s almost my birthday. And then, once I remembered that my birthday is almost here and I remember that I didn’t remember my own birthday, it suddenly dawned on me… Holy crap. I’m getting old.
My birthday is the last day of this month. (Hoorah.) I’m not feigning some sort of nonexistent contempt for my swiftly approaching birthday; I’m also not repressing some kind of hidden excitement about my birthday arriving… I’m honestly completely ambivalent. I could take it or leave it. I have no plans, really. And I kind of enjoy it that way. Until I realize, with the urgency of a derailed train five yards in front of me approaching at terminal velocity, that I am officially one of those foggy-brained grown-up people who forgot what magic feels like because life is more about deadlines and worries and responsibilities than it is about the EXCITEMENT of what comes next, well… The feeling is truly quite sad.
I’m not old at all. I consider myself to be foolishly young, with a significant road before me that I must travel (barefoot, uphill, in the snow) before I will have earned the right to wedge myself into the esteemed and respected category of “old;” however, I’ve also hiked my way (barefoot, in every direction, as far as I could go) all on my own… I distinctively remember a conversation I had a few years ago with my tree-hugging granola-eating barefoot and starry-eyed group of friends, about the notion of being a “grown up” and how we could never in a million years imagine ourselves calling each other that. Granted, we had no children then; no burdens, no worries, no obligations or responsibilities… We drank coffee with dinner and read books at midnight and took frequent and spontaneous road trips to random and undetermined destinations hundreds of miles away for a week at a time, often for the sole purpose of competing for the most elaborate and varied assortment of truck stop bumper stickers; we were carefree and footloose and driven by the wide-awake wanderlust compelling our souls to go and see and live and BE… We existed in a constellation of inter-galactic wonder and cosmic philosophising; unhampered by the weight of real-life encumberments and all that adult-type nonsense. We were alive. We understood the notion of forever, and we reveled in it daily. We were gypsies, meandering through the world with reckless abandon and purest joy. We were unstoppable in our curiosity; unshakeable in our conviction that reality is what happens when you stop living and ask why. We were never that kind.
This was only a handful of years ago. It feels like yesterday to me. And yet, it also feels like seventy-three lifetimes ago… I am a mother now, to five beautiful boys. I am a wife. I am a lot of different things to a lot of different people; not just a college kid living on dreams and an insatiable desire to see the world…
But when it occurred to me (and to my own dismay, quite frankly) that I have seriously reminded myself three times now that I’m about to have a birthday, I understood–in that tiny little moment–that I am, officially, a “grown up.”
The thing about it is, however, that I see now why I never expected to fit in to that title. Because all the grown-ups I ever knew were perpetually bummed out about this whole ‘getting old’ thing, and constantly stressing out about some mundane obligatory aspect of their daily life (which, of course, they were postponing and dreading and expected to fulfill), or complaining about how birthdays aren’t special once you’ve had a whole bunch of them… Well, I get it now. And I totally agree with my younger self. I’ll never be one of those people.
I wake up expecting to experience some kind of magic in my day… Every day. That doesn’t mean I always wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and following my every whim and fancy. It actually means that I’ll usually feel content and satisfied if nobody spills the milk on the table or nobody wakes me up screaming incoherently between bloody-murder sobbing about how their brother was mean to them three days ago when they stole the yellow transformer toy and then broke it so it was gone forever, or no one tramples all over mommy’s brand new flowers in the garden, or nobody pees on the floor or bloodies a random body part or has a total toddler temper tantrum in the middle of isle 5 at the overcrowded supermarket… You understand, don’t you? Magic doesn’t have to maintain the same premise, you know. Sometimes magic is simply looking at your alarm clock–before it goes off–getting out of bed–before anyone else–and enjoying a fresh cup of really strong coffee while the sun rises to the melody of love singing in your heart. I don’t have to go on any certain adventure or blind road trip to get my kicks these days. The places that give me the deepest thrills aren’t places at all, so much as they are ways of seeing exactly where I am.
Today, I am twenty-eight. Soon, I will be twenty-nine. I know well enough that I won’t wake up feeling any older on the 31st… But I will wake up feeling different. I will awake with that familiar–and yet NEW–magical feeling. The feeling of simply BEing. Magic.