I remember when my birthday was an exciting prospect. A day that couldn’t come fast enough. I looked forward to presents, and cake, and all of the things that come with birthdays. Now that I’m 31 it’s not the same. I have not reached that point where I dread getting older, or the number of said age, but I no longer feel that joyous excitement of my childhood. I joke that I am a year older and not any wiser but I don’t actually mean that.
At 31 (which is neither young nor old) I feel grateful. Grateful for another year of life. Grateful for all the things I get to do, see, read, and make. I’m filled with such immense happiness about the wonderful things in my life. My friends who sustain me in ways that food and water cannot. The ones that remind me of another place and time many years ago and whose lasting friendships are a testament to the enduring power (and importance) of companionate love. The friends with whom I can be my most vulgar, perverted, and carefree. The friends with whom I discuss the issues that get me riled up such as politics, racism, sexism, and religion. The friends that ask me how I am doing and who are interested in my mental health.
Thirty-one years of life has taught my that being liked is overrated. That I cannot compromise who I am and what I believe in order to fit in. It is not worth it. Likability is a poison to me. It entails censoring myself because I fear offending those that don’t give offending me a second thought. Along with my gratitude there is a consciousness. A consciousness about my own happiness and how I am responsible for it. I choose what to care about, what to see, hear and listen to. I choose who and what to allow into my life. That is a powerful thing to realize.
I’m unlearning a lot of things currently. For instance: I no longer try to hide the fact that I menstruate by shamefully hiding my tampons in my purse and going to great lengths so that no person is ever made uncomfortable with the sight of these. I am unlearning all of the gender bullshit I grew up with. I am also learning to walk away from people that don’t know when to shut up. Social media gives us this constant exposure to wonderful and terrible things. Some people decide to express the terrible, the uneducated and the bigoted. They haven’t learned that it is okay to shut the hell up so I do it for them. Muting and un-friending people is self-care.
Basically, I am in a constant state of learning and unlearning. It’s not pleasant. It’s painful. It makes me uncomfortable but it’s worth it. So this birthday is all about feeling grateful, being unapologetically myself, and committing myself to learning, listening and making changes especially when it makes me uncomfortable.