Twenty-four

I’m going to be honest, this birthday is one that I wasn’t all that excited for. For one, I’ve really enjoyed being 23, and I think I’ve made a lot of wonderful memories in the last year. For another, it’s a strange time to be celebrating a birthday at the moment, not that I’ve ever minded a low-key day…let me pick the treat and the movie and I’m set. And for a third reason, 24 is the first age that makes me feel unironically a bit old…like, I’m supposed to be a real adult now, and I still feel more half-kid, half-adult. I guess I’m just easing into my quarter-life crisis. 🙂

Also, this birthday is a bit of a strange milestone for me. When my cousin passed away from cancer at age 24 on April 19th, 2017, I had a bit of a personal awakening, as you do when someone close to you passes earlier than expected. Not that anyone is ever ready to die at a young age, but I looked to him, a person I had always seen as a role model throughout my life, and to me he seemed spiritually in the right place. I had just turned 21, and I thought to myself, could I face death at 24? And honestly, I felt very far from being able to be at peace with death. I realized that I wasn’t living my life with my heart in the right place, that I had a bunch of small hangups and fears and insecurities and bad habits that had gradually developed over my teen years and kept me from maintaining the right priorities. I had been doing a lot of surface-level personal work over recent years, but I hadn’t been addressing anything too deeply. So I resolved to work harder at not letting myself get in my own way so much.

In some ways I feel like I haven’t changed much at all over my lifetime. In others, I feel like I’ve completely transformed over the years, especially the last three. I don’t know which is closer to the truth, but I’ll accept the middle ground, that I’ve been growing and learning the best I can. And to be honest, I feel more spiritually at peace than I ever have before. So, in a way, I can now answer that I could more readily face death at 24. Do I want to? Absolutely not, there are so many, many things I still want to do in life. My heart aches for the life that young souls gone too soon could have lived, the people they could have impacted. But often, young loss has a massive impact of its own, and for the gift of true spiritual introspection, I am grateful. I wouldn’t be who I am today at 24 without my cousin’s life (the same could be said for many other loved ones), but also without his loss.

I was watching part of LOTR: Return of the King as it was airing on tv the other day. There was a scene that stuck out, that I hadn’t really noticed before, Gandalf and Pippin talking before the assault on Minis Tirith. Upon a little digging, I discovered that the dialogue was unique to the film but based on pieces from the book. At any rate, it resonated with me:

Pippin: I didn’t think it would end this way.

Gandalf: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.

Pippin: What? Gandalf? See what?

Gandalf: White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.

Pippin: Well, that isn’t so bad.

Gandalf: No. No, it isn’t.

I didn’t really expect to spend my 24th birthday blog post talking about death, but honestly it’s just what’s been on my mind the past few months, even before all this stuff we have going on in the world at the moment. It’s just a more somber sort of birthday all around. And it’s of my opinion that we all should attempt to make peace with death the best we can, because it’s a path we all must take at some point. I forget where I heard this recently, but someone pointed out that when He was faced with His crucifixion, Jesus feared death, but He was not terrified of it, and I think that’s an important distinction. Jesus showed His humanity in that moment, because as a human, it is perfectly natural to fear death. However, because Jesus died for us, we do not need to live in terror of it, because it is not the end. We can make peace with our physical mortality, if only we endeavor to keep our spirits healthy.

So, I went into today with the lowest of expectations. I would do some schoolwork, take ballet class via livestream, watch a movie to end the evening. I would turn 24. Well, today ended up surprising me in the best of ways. I’m lucky that I have plenty of family and friends that take the time to text, call, or send a card, so I always feel loved on my birthday. But this might strangely be my favorite birthday in recent memory because of how low my expectations were. I received some really sweet messages, even from a few people I haven’t talked to recently. My Godmother called and we talked on the phone for 45 minutes, my other Godmother/aunt dropped by to leave me a little gift and chat from a distance on the porch, my best friend dropped off a super sweet surprise gift just after, I got some very thoughtful cards in the mail. Altogether, I feel so loved I could burst.

My soul needed this, truly. I was filled up by my loved ones today even from a distance, and now I feel so much more prepared to celebrate the Resurrection this Sunday, on the 3rd anniversary of my cousin’s loss no less, despite the sadness of not being able to gather with my family and my church family. My sense of hope in these times is being repeatedly tested and renewed in more ways than I can express. Who knew a “quarantine birthday” would be one for the memories, for all the loveliest reasons and not negative ones?

Twenty-three

Here we are at another birthday…I turned 23 today! I don’t think I’m the only one who does this, but I tend to get ahead of myself when it gets closer to a new birthday and I’ve basically been considering myself a 23-year-old in my head for the past couple months. My friend and I were talking the other day about how people tend to say on their birthday that they’re looking forward to their 23rd year or whatever, when in actuality, turning 23 means you have just completed your 23rd year and you’re really beginning your 24th year. Haha, it’s just a technicality but it’s a bit of a pet peeve that I was happy someone else shared. And I guess it’s a way to illustrate my point that age is something that sort of changes every day, not all at once on one day a year. At least that’s how I like to think of it, that getting older isn’t this big surprise that pounces on you, but rather a gradual, constant process of letting go of one age and moving toward the next. But I do really like birthdays.

Last year for my birthday post on the blog, I did a little new years resolutions check-in, which works well for me since my birthday falls a third of the way into the year. Ok, whoa, saying that feels weird, how is 2019 already 1/3 through? I don’t think I ever actually realized my birthday is literally 1/3 of the way into the year until I typed that just now lol. Anyway, I also had another kind of silly realization a few days ago when thinking back on my 2019 resolutions and watching this video on youtube from Aileen of Lavendaire. Yearly goals are great, but I realized some goals make much more sense to break down into sections, or a month or 3 months at a time, like the “draw every day” one. I mean, I do draw a lot, and I intended my resolutions to have some flexibility, but literally drawing something every single day for 365 days is a huge goal that I didn’t actually think all the way through, haha. Duh. So needless to say, I haven’t quite kept to that one religiously! This blog is about my efforts in mindful and intentional living, but you can see how there are so many layers to mindfulness that it’s still super easy to mindlessly set an intention, like this one that was unrealistic for my current self.

So with these recent reflections I have also had some fresh ideas on how to reintegrate some of my goals in a more realistic and concrete way. To start with the drawing example, I was reminded on instagram recently about the #100daychallenge, which is where you draw/create something basically every day for 100 days following a theme of your choosing (or if you miss days here and there, you at least have a goal of making it to 100 eventually). So, because I am constantly gathering inspiration online and love saving photos and pinning things on pinterest as reference for future art/drawings, I decided to do #100daysofillustratedphotos! Probably over the summer months, I will try to choose 100 photos I’ve pinned or taken myself, and illustrate each one to practice drawing from reference and stylistically interpreting real things.

As for my other goals, I still have to work on the digital decluttering, I have so far just looked through a lot of old photos and condensed some folders recently so I have a better idea of what I have. That’s just something that takes time. Another one that hasn’t gone as planned is going back to pointe class. With West Side Story being pushed into the new year and taking a lot of classes this semester, not to mention leaving the country for a week in March, my ballet class attendance has been pretty disrupted, plus I still need to get refitted for pointe shoes and get a new pair as it has been almost 5 years. So I’m okay with not rushing this one, as I need to be able to commit to it fully when I do get back into it.

The last goal I want to refine a bit is the “one hour a day of no screen time/creativity without screens.” This isn’t as much of a goal as it is sort of habit-building, because like I said in the resolutions post, I’m obviously not using screens 24/7, and it’s hard to implement a solid hour of creativity at once depending on the day. I realized that I’ve been craving more outdoors time lately and that getting outside and being creative kind of go hand-in-hand for me. So I’m tentatively keeping the original goal and leaving it somewhat vague, but I’m going to add that I want to try to more consciously get outside and get some fresh air and quiet time a little bit every day or most days as part of it.

Lastly, the one goal I have actually already completed is to try rock climbing, and it went exactly as I’d hoped! I showed up to a beginner climbing class at my university at the end of January, had fun, made some new friends, and just tried out a new bouldering gym with them last week that recently opened up nearby. I really love climbing (more specifically I learned that I prefer bouldering, which is shorter heights without a harness) and I’m so happy I made this a goal because it pushed me to just do it and not put it off! I’m looking forward to going more often and getting better at it.

In the youtube video I mentioned/linked above, Aileen offers some helpful journaling prompts, beginning with reflecting by asking yourself, “what are the lessons I’ve learned in the past 3 months?” I really like this, because when I think back on the year as a whole, it’s kind of a blur, but I’ve done and learned so much just in the last few months. I wrote a post on what I learned from being in West Side Story, I wrote about traveling out of the country for the first time to visit Paris, and there are many other little things I haven’t even mentioned. Such as that for an assignment for my Interviewing class, I emailed one of my favorite current artists, Dinara Mirtalipova, who happens to live somewhat close to me, and asked if I could interview her, and she graciously agreed. (!!) Talking with her in a coffee shop for an hour, even though I felt like I was pretty awkward because my brain was in nervous autopilot, was such an awesome experience. Just to be able to ask her questions and gain a lot of helpful insight into the career I want to pursue, especially with her experiences being exactly the sort of things I’d love to do in my own career. It was one of those experiences where the idea popped into my head and I knew it wouldn’t hurt to ask, and it meant so much to me that she said yes (and I got an A on that assignment, haha).

I like to write these occasional reflection posts and talk candidly about my goals because it really helps me to see more clearly what I have accomplished, what I need to work on, and when I need to readjust my goals or methods. Plus, I hope that reading me ramble about this stuff is somewhat helpful, to see the imperfections in another person’s journey, but also to see that things are achievable if you just start trying, if you just plant the seed. My name means “green shoot” or “blooming” and I feel like I’m always just trying to sprout ideas and to grow and bloom in different ways and encourage others to do the same. I just love growth and flowers and new beginnings. I’m a lot more fearless than I ever used to be, and sometimes growing up feels more free than being a kid, because you finally learn enough to know you’ll never not have a lot to learn still. I liked being twenty-two, but I think I’m going to like being twenty-three even more.

Twenty-two

Today is my birthday! My first birthday with this blog, I guess that’s a small milestone of some sort? It’s funny how once you’re past twenty-one, all those momentous years of coming-of-age have pretty much happened and now it’s just a slow roll approaching thirty. Not to be cynical, because I’m very much a fan of birthdays and I think every year feels momentous in a way, but I do tend to have a moment every birthday where I wrestle with my emotions and expectations. Every holiday comes with excitement and the desire to spend the day in a joyful and meaningful way, but a birthday is like a private little holiday just for you, with no guarantee of time off or the participation of others.

Maybe you can relate to these odd feelings. I’m not the type to seek attention, so while I definitely appreciate being appreciated, I find that I enjoy this new kind of birthday that comes with being an adult, the kind where it falls on a Monday and you have your regular obligations and you just sort of go on with your life, though maybe everyone is extra nice to you for the day. 🙂 I always end up feeling super loved, which I’m grateful for, and I really enjoy just seeing that pretty little date everywhere…4/16. My own special significant set of numbers. I do love April as a whole, though, because I happen to have quite a few family members that share this month of birth, so it’s a string of happy little significant calendar dates.

Something that has hit me in the last year or two is not to get so hung up on individual dates, though. Sure, you may have those days on the calendar that make you feel like you have to do something exciting or feel a certain way, but they come and go like any other day, so why not try to value every day instead of stressing over the ones that “should” be important? For me, having a pet oddly helps with that mindset. As far as my little rabbit is concerned, holidays are no different from any other day (except maybe they’re worse because we leave him all alone while we’re extra busy celebrating!) Benjamin Bun doesn’t care that it’s my birthday, he just wants more head pets and playtime like always, and honestly, that’s a really grounding concept to me. We humans over-complicate our lives and could benefit from some reminders of simple living from our small furry friends. Anyway, you know me, I could go on. Another day, another analysis of what lessons I can apply to find more peace in my life.

I do want to check in briefly regarding my resolutions, because technically a birthday is like your own personal New Year’s Day, so it seems like a good time to allow myself another reset. 🙂 I will say I’m doing pretty well with my personal goals so far! I have a streak of over 100 days of practicing French using my Duolingo app, I’ve been attending ballet class again regularly and improving steadily, and I’ve only bought one article of clothing this year (with a gift card for my birthday), so that spending fast turned out to be way easier that I expected. The ones I need to work on more: being online less, digital decluttering, and actually attempting to illustrate a story. I’ve slowly started going through my hard drive of photos but I haven’t devoted much time to it; as for the illustrating, I’ve done enough miscellaneous practice and need to start working on a concrete project and give myself some deadlines. And to be honest, being online less has not happened at all, I’ve been pretty horrible lately about being glued to my computer for the majority of my spare time, I really need to change that.

So, twenty-two is my new lucky number. I really do think every new year is my new favorite age and I hope I keep up that mindset, because it must mean that I’m learning and getting better, little by little.