Birthday love

It’s my birthday!

I was thinking about my birthday yesterday and got very thoughtful about it. So much so, in fact, that I had to sit down and write out what I was feeling. This is what I wrote:
Tomorrow I turn twenty-four.

This will be the first birthday I’ve had in which I’m not actually excited to turn that age. I don’t not want to be 24; I guess I’m just extra-conscious of the fact that I’ll now have gone through two whole cycles of my life. I mean, I don’t know much about Chinese tradition–or superstition–about age, but as the animal calendar has twelve animals in it, one year for each, it seems like this is a significant birthday. I’m two-times-twelve now, and it feels like it ought to mean something.

Earlier today, though, before I’d consciously thought of all this, I decided to put on some makeup and take photos of myself, since I haven’t done that in a while. When I was done and started uploading the pictures, I realized these would be a good record of me on the cusp of 24. So I checked to see if I had any pictures from previous birthdays, and started putting together an album of photos from other years of my life. I couldn’t get birthday pictures from each year, but what I did find seems good enough.

(Click to go to the album)

[album is no longer online]

2005 Dec - Birthday montage

Looking through pictures from my past brought up all these memories and emotions, not so much because I’m getting older, but because I see the people around me aging too. Really, at my age, isn’t that what getting older means? As I move into the prime of my young adulthood, my parents and older relatives move out of theirs, and my sisters leave childhood forever. It makes me very sad. I don’t mind change–I think that’s what keeps the world going round–but I do mind very much seeing the passage of time affect my loved ones. I don’t like seeing us all gain weight and our youthful grins get smaller as we turn older. I don’t like to think of the inevitable decrepitude that accompanies aging, and I don’t like to think what it all means: which is, in part, that there’s very little time for any of us, and are we really doing all that we want with our lives?

Okay, so I guess this does apply to me as well as my family. I look at the photos I took of myself today, and, if I consider myself as objectively as I possibly can, I see a lovely and energetic young woman with her whole life ahead of her. I’ve still got a bit of sparkle in my eyes, some mischief in my grin. In other words: I look young and great. But, on the other hand, how do I feel most of the time, and how do I look and feel compared to a year ago? I feel older, a great deal more tired, and much fatter. My body feels stiffer, less flexible; my memory, less sharp; my imagination more rusty. I think all this has more to do with grad school and sleep deprivation than age, but still, the aging process isn’t slowing down either. I’m about to turn 24–am I where I want to be?

Well, on the surface, yes. For some reason this surprises me. But look: I’m well into my second (reasonably successful) year as a graduate student in a great program, I’m going to be married in May (yes, we have a date!), I’m surrounded by wonderful friends and family–what more could I ask for? Really, there’s nothing. But every so often, on faintly blue and pensive days like this one, I just feel like maybe I should have done some things differently.
That’s how I was feeling yesterday. And I do get that way every now and then, make no mistake.

But today has been an extremely lovely day (three hours of sleep notwithstanding), and a wonderful birthday, so I can’t help but feel happy. Usually there’s only a very small group of people who remember my birthday, since it comes at a busy time in the school term and everyone’s madly rushing about doing their own business. But this year, I received a phone call, e-cards and messages starting last night, then woke up this morning to more phone calls, and have been very much enjoying more cards, calls, gifts, and food all day. I’ve been feeling very special and loved all day long, which reminds me that as long as we give love and receive love from others, it doesn’t matter how old we get. And in fact, I’ve now re-realized, the longer we exist on this planet, the more friendships and relationships we create, so in this sense every birthday is a cause for thankful reflection. As Linda put it delightfully in her email to me, referring to my habit of feeding everyone cookies, “You insure that there’s always more of us to love (literally), but the good news is that there’s more of us to love you.” Now I can truly say with sincerity, what more could I ask for? 🙂

I give my enormous heartfelt thanks to everyone who wished me a happy birthday, with special hugs to:

Jackie for singing the “happy birthday” song to me first thing in the morning
Mommy for also greeting me first thing in the morning, and a lovely card
Daddo for a short-but-sweet email
Shra for a card, AND a call, AND an AIM conversation!
Al for a card that made me laugh out loud
Erik for his support as always
Aiyi for a lovely card with a message that made me smile
Huy for taking me out to lunch, an awesome book about food in Mesopotamia, and a wonderful card
Daniel for the coolest and most unexpected “card”
Linda for calling me the night before and sending the coolest email
Christen for descending into the depths of paper-grading insanity with me the night before, then laughs today
Heather for a cute card that made me laugh
Rosemary for a wonderful, sweet phone call
Karen for “singing” the happy birthday song to me over email
Raj for remembering and reconnecting
Edwin because he has the coolest birthday
Andy for a cheerful message
Jennifer for a great email that made me laugh and want pie
Ying for calling and being herself
Tina for a very sweet message
Hansel for remembering and saying hello
Audrey for the friendly card

My gratitude and appreciation for you all!

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at]