Today was my 31st birthday. It's one of those strange, not really significant ages, that still feels really weird and almost impossible to be. I mean, just yesterday I was 16. Or 25. Or 29.
For whatever reason, in the last few weeks, I've been thinking a lot about the inverse of this age. Of me at 13. Of all the ages I've been it's one that still stands out. Just not really in any good way. 13 was the year I lost my grandfather. The year my mom struggled with grief and alcoholism. The year my dad lost perspective and my family started its real descent into broken.
It was also the year I learned what it felt like to be hated. A defining thing, that.
I don't talk about that year much with people I don't know very well. Even though that year, above any other, has deeply shaped the person that I am and have become. And I'm not sure why I'm choosing to talk about it here, or now. I know why it's significant. I've come a long way since then. I've grown. I've changed. I'm in a different and much better place in pretty much every possible way. And as far as I've come and as grateful as I am for all the things in my life that have moved on from such a painful place...I'm still not sure I've really forgiven myself for that year.
So why is this coming up on what was an otherwise good day? As I get older I find myself getting more reflective about birthdays. I notice the changes. The way my hair has gone inescapably white. The lines that don't go away on my face. The way my body has changed shape. And as strange and difficult as I find these changes sometimes, there will be more of them. And I want to accept them gracefully, even joyfully, though I know that they'll also make me sad. Mostly for the ways I won't see myself until it's gone.
At 31 I look back at my awkward adolescent self and I want to tell her how much better things will be. I want to tell her that while time doesn't heal everything, it can give you perspective. And I want to tell her that it wasn't her fault and that she did and still does deserve kindness and love. And I would give her the most amazing hug you can imagine. And I'd wish her a happy birthday, because I remember that no one else really did.