The 24th Birthday Post: Step One Is To Know Yourself

It is my birthday. There is cake on the way and wine in the fridge. Life is more than good. This is the first birthday, perhaps in forever, that has rolled in very quietly and easily. I remember the years of carving out ridiculous and drawn-out lists filled with requests for gifts. Suffice it to say I was a bit insufferable. Of course I am not sans a plan this year. But, I didn’t ask for much more than for my friends and family to make the trek out to my apartment in Virginia and celebrate alongside me.

Twenty.
Twenty.

Turning twenty-four is sort of like turning 20; it’s the last year before shit hits the fan and something major happens. Age twenty-five is commemorated as a pretty special year which is probably why I have a host of friends already planning vacations for next year. After all, by that age you can rent a car without additional fees. Clearly that merits an international vacation, guys.

I renewed my apartment lease a few weeks ago and it dawned on me that this is the longest I have been in one place since I graduated. After hopping around the country for work, I am settled here for the time being. Being back on familiar territory, I’ve finally gotten the chance to fuse who I became during my stints in Massachusetts and Texas with bits and pieces of the people and places I knew before I hit adulthood. The fusion was not always easy or fluid, but it happened and it now feels amazing.

I hope I remember my 24th birthday and the weeks leading up to it as a time when I was truly happy. I hope I recall this as a time that was beautiful because it was marked by the kind of happiness that accompanies a serene existence. The kind of existence not fraught with arguments or tragedy or general unpleasantness. The kind of existence defined by living a simple life and working hard. The kind of existence that I can recall fighting for not too many years ago when my life was blemished with the scars of beasts.

Twenty one.
Twenty one.

Over the past year, if there is anything I have learned and tried to hold on to, it is having the audacity to both be and know myself. Earlier this week a few of my friends joked about me not understanding a term they were using, but I am well-aware that is who I am. I proudly wear the title of being the “Grandma” of our group. I do not try to pretend that I understand half of the hashtags they use. I do not try to pretend that I can hang at a club well past midnight. I do not try to pretend I can drink more than two glasses of wine before I hit the perfect tipsy. I do not try to pretend I understand a thing going on during a football game. I do not try to pretend I care about lipstick or pedicures.

I do not try to pretend I like people who I don’t. I don’t feign interest in activities that don’t appeal to me. I do not try to pretend I want to see movies whose previews didn’t interest me. I do not pretend to be interested in men who don’t excite or intrigue me. I do not sit through boring dinner dates just for a “free meal.” I can cook my damn self. And, by cook, I mean order out. Because summoning the emotion to pretend in any facet of your life is misplaced and wasted energy. That energy is much better spent on the things and people you truly love.

Twenty two.
Twenty two.

I stopped begging the wrong people to love me. Giving someone your everything when they do not have the emotional volume to return that investment is an emptiness that starts in the pit of your stomach and spreads to the tips of your fingers.

I do not hide my boisterous feminism, even when people disagree or it rubs them the wrong way or they “unfollow” me. I do not hide that I am impatient and overanalytical and aggressive. I do not disguise that I am a control freak, a perfectionist and an overachiever who doesn’t make enough time to celebrate my work. I have vulnerabilities, many of which I pour on to the screen and let people read about, drawing conclusions far and wide about who I am, what I think and how I love.

Some of these things I like about myself. Some of these things I can’t stand about myself. Some of these things I will change about myself. But, I am grateful that I know and accept them.

Twenty three.
Twenty three.

Because, there is a quiet and lasting peace in knowing who you are and refusing to apologize for it. There is unity between your head and your heart when you own your mistakes and honor your personal life history, even the ticks on that timeline that make you wince. There is a permanent anchor that secures your livelihood when you can look at your reflection and reconcile with the good and bad staring right back at you. Knowing yourself is the first step.

Cheers.

Xoxo,

Tyece

 

Red Dresses, Good Men And Bad Decisions.

 

Oh, young one.
Not her 22nd birthday. But a red dress indeed.

31-Day Writing Challenge Day 21: “She wore a red dress…”

It was the night of her 22nd birthday. She had only been living in a new city for four months. Stricken with both homesickness and a budding sense of regret about choosing the path that led her to this particular city, she counted down the days until she could board a plane and fly home for her true birthday celebration. The celebration that would include her family, a tiny cake from Simon’s Bakery, her friends and the inside jokes she would never have to explain. She never knew she would miss these things. Until she did. She always believed homesickness would be episodic, 24-hour emotional viruses that she could overcome. Now, she wore her nostalgia like a second layer of skin.

But, there was him. He served as a streak of redemption in this 22nd birthday occurring in a foreign place. Or, at least that is what she told herself as she stretched the red dress over her torso and hips, pulled up knee-high boots and glanced at herself in the full-length mirror.

She told him a few days before what kind of birthday evening she wanted to have. She knew women had to be explicit instead of waiting to be surprised; the latter always ended in seething with passive-aggressive emotion and spitting sly, bitchy remarks. So, she told him. But, he did not listen. Because, they had been falling apart long before this birthday dinner. This dinner, this outing, was not for her. It was for him. It was a final gesture that said, “I do not care enough to listen, but I care enough to show up and not etch my name in the history of your life’s assholes.”

They went to the same restaurant where they had one of their first dates only a few weeks before. But, unlike that first date, they did not hold hands. They did not kiss while waiting for their table. They existed, barely breathing bodies with miles in between them.

She would look back on this moment years later and know that she was never ready to introduce someone into her chaotic and unhappy life at that time. She would realize she had misused him as an anchor while she was drowning in a sea of dysphoria. She liked him. His witty jokes, his broad shoulders, his awkward silences. The way he inched her wine glass away when she had too much to drink. The way he stayed in her bed all day on Sundays. She liked him in a way that was both reflexive and reckless. It was the best and worst kind of adoration. But, she did not at that moment like herself, which made liking him futile at best and all-consuming at worst.

But, for that night, she wore the hell out of that red dress and he appreciated her silhouette.

Red was supposed to symbolize boldness. Audacity. Power. Ironically enough, at that time, she possessed none of the above.

Xoxo,

Tyece