It is 11:00 p.m. on my 24th birthday. Everyone has left. My cat has crawled out from under the bed where she hid for the past five hours, afraid of my guests. I finished cleaning the apartment and doing the dishes. I’ve blown out the candles, both the “2” and “4” that sat atop my cake as well as the various scented ones I had lit throughout the apartment. I’ve slipped out of my festive polka-dotted dress into an “I Love NYC” t-shirt. This is the last hour of my 24th birthday. I’m staring at the birthday cards lining my fireplace mantel. I’m recalling all of the texts and Facebook posts from the day. I’m remembering the emails, the tweets and the phone calls. The friends who came from miles away and the friend who surprised me, all to celebrate the day. The special drink another friend made, affectionately named after my blog. The countless bottles of Chardonnay in my fridge that people gave me, well-aware of how much I love a glass of wine.
I am 24. It doesn’t feel much different, yet I feel damn good.
A common expression I heard growing up, typically in church, was “People don’t have to be nice.” It’s a simple phrase, but it carries a lot of weight and truth. Kindness is becoming extinct in our world, a place where it seems much easier to avert our eyes from strangers and let doors shut behind us. I’m guilty of those things and some others. But, Saturday reminded me just how good it feels to be loved and appreciated. Saturday reminded me how good it feels when people elect to be kind.
I’ve had birthdays with boyfriends and boyfriend-less birthdays. Trust me when I say that this year was as boyfriend-less as it could get. But, for once, I wasn’t perturbed by that fact. I was not waiting around hoping that every time my phone buzzed, it was some bum of a dude wishing me a Happy Birthday. I’ve had birthdays where I casually dialed my ex at the end of the night, my heart clenched in the middle of my body and my mind hoping he remembered. I’ve had birthdays where I outlined all of the things I wanted to do that day to fastly-fading hook-up, only for him to ignore my request and come up with his own half-ass plan. I’ve had birthdays where I tethered all of my happiness for that day to people who really didn’t give a shit. This year was not one of those birthdays.
This year I had a good time with good people. I enjoyed the people who have been there for me during the past year, the people who have had my back, the people who have supported me, my blog and my ever-changing aspirations. The people who have listened to me bitch and moan when things aren’t going well and who have said “Congrats!” when the tide turned in my favor. The people who have made me laugh and smile. The people who have shown me love.
It’s easy, almost perfunctory, to fixate on the people or things that may be missing from our lives. But, it’s much harder to soak up the things we do have. The people who do love us. The success we have attained and the goals we have accomplished. We are so quick to pull the terrible things off the shelf, the mementos of when life did not treat us quite right. But, we never pull the good things off the shelf. We let the good times sit there and collect dust. It is easy to lament what you don’t have. It’s so much harder to appreciate the gems. But, it feels so much better when you do.