I had a birthday recently—and maybe it's just a personality quirk, but I have a questionable habit of throwing glitter, fireworks and capital "D" Drama at everything from boiling a hot dog to the birth of a child. Everything is a big deal to me, yet the annual reminder that I am becoming all the more firmly rooted in adulthood—at least chronologically—tends to really take the cake in terms of things that I manage to consistently blow out of proportion.
Birthdays used to really concern me. For a good part of my twenties, I was really uncomfortable whenever another year passed because, for the most part, I had this really unsettling feeling that nothing much had changed. I didn't feel like I was accomplishing anything even as I depleted another full year from my life. It was troubling, particularly as logical revelations came along with becoming older and maybe wiser. There was that one year that I kind of realized that I will never be famous, or an actress or friends with a celebrity. It was a bitter sting and I am still recovering. I guess I had cannon-balled into what my mother had always promised would be true—the years start flying by just as you get old enough to wish they'd slow their roll.
So as the most recent birthday crept up, I did what I always do—I mentally scrolled through the past 365 days to determine any big changes in order to secure some kind of value. I figured that it would somehow make me feel better if I got something in exchange for getting older. Like, for instance, maybe life experience and a one-way ticket to a cooler life than I was living last year. It's not so much that I am opposed to getting older—it's a privilege denied to many and I am grateful for it. Nonetheless, I'm opposed to a stagnant life. I crave so much and maybe every birthday is a friendly reminder to get the show on the road already.
So, where could I attribute value and make this age feel successful in the grand scheme of a cool life. What did I do? What did I learn? What made 25 a year to remember?
Well, a lot of things, actually. I got married, so that was cool. I learned how to bake a cake and Google taught me what it means to "gently fold egg whites into cake batter" which seems pretty worthwhile to know. I also learned that my dogs don't mind eating tinfoil—or the rest of the Easter basket. Positives, right? A valuable year.
But that wasn't all. Somewhere in April, just as the year that really only pertains to me was entering its final quarter, I sunk deep into the biggest, most valuable lesson of the entire year. Concisely, I learned that anyone can wake up and choose to make real impactful change in their life any day of the week.
Six months ago, I lived a pretty different life. I was a college admissions recruiter living in Michigan's capital city while reppin' and recruiting in the Motor City. For several months of the year, I got in my little Ford Focus—my zippy little office on wheels—with charger plugs like fishing wire cast in every direction and a not-so-humble ability to calculate ACT composite scores while blazing 75 MPH through five lanes of highway traffic. It was pretty fun, but one day, for probably a hundred good reasons, I decided I wanted something different. I didn't know what, or where, or why, but whatever it ended up being, I started looking for it and chasing it hard.
Talk about change. I left higher education entirely and joined the sales team at TentCraft a few months later in June—barely a month before my birthday. Never ever in my life did I ever anticipate becoming an expert in the promotional tent industry and I can tell you that I certainly didn't study Tentology in college. But remember that thing I said about being able to change your life any day of the week? Well, I embarked on that journey so recently that it's still sinking in—and it's become, without a doubt, one of the most exhilarating things I've done in a long time. It's like getting to the top of the biggest hill on a rollercoaster and knowing that it all starts now — the unknown plunge, the rush, the incredible pace, the knowledge that while it's scary, it's good. In June, I packed my car, coaxed my puppies in the backseat, and moved my entire life some 250 miles north of where I thought I'd permanently planted myself. I changed my whole life and learned that tomorrow can be so different from today, if you just choose to make it so.
So now, fast-forward a few weeks. There I am, a couple of days before my birthday, counting it down, questioning the worth of the previous year. My go-to is typically along the lines of "last year I faced challenges. And challenges always, always, always make you better." This year, while I still appreciated the challenges that helped me grow, I had a bit more concrete value to permanently attach to —change—Real change. Life changing change. New house, new job, new car kind of change. I did a lot in 25 and felt an even trade, like the year was used wisely.
And I learned how to make cake.