26

So I have been 26 for, technically, about 11 1/2 hours (I was born around 8pm March 9). 26 years and still learning how to be. I suppose we don’t spring from the womb, or high school, or whatever institute of higher learning we attend, fully-formed.

Lately, my dreams have been tossing me some heavy stuff. They’ve been showing me people from my past and I’ve woken up regretting everything I didn’t do to make them part of my present. High time I stopped regretting. Some of them I couldn’t have kept with me no matter how hard I tried, and I tried my hardest. Some of them I could have, if I hadn’t needed so badly to run away from everything I knew, down to a university with only one or two students from my graduating class.

But whatever I could have done at 18, I can’t at 26. And that is something I have to accept. Somehow. Accept, without bitterness, that these people are in happier places now (and I don’t mean they’re dead). Don’t look them up. Don’t tempt myself into the what-ifs and the where-would-we-be-nows. We are where we are, and I tend to believe we shuffle about on the cosmic chessboard for a reason. I might not know the reason, but it’s there, underneath layers and layers of human emotion and reason and instinct.

If I stay stuck in the past, I can’t enjoy the present. That’s not fair to the people in my present. The changes I make, I make because I want to move forward. (“Forwards”, I almost wrote. There’s the German in me.) Gimpiness aside, I am a happy woman. I’m only unhappy when I miss what apparently never should have been. Because if it should have been, wouldn’t it have? So I need to trust that the foot I put in front of me is going to find the right patch of ground, all metaphorically speaking. I can move forward in directions that help me recapture some of the essence of Then, the good bits about me, with the bonus that I am free to leave behind everything that was holding me down.

I sound enlightened but really I am persuading myself: be new. Be here. Be now. Draw strength from the life you have. Be patient with yourself, self, because this lesson takes people a long time to learn. This is a 400-level existence course. Backward is easy; backward is paths already trodden, muddy, destroyed. Forward is new. Forward is downright pristine. It’s also uncharted, so I have to trust that this is where I’m going. Trust is hard. But trust is an act of love. I can say, “I love you, self, and I trust us to make it.” I can be terrified to extend that trust. I kind of have to extend it, though, or else stay locked up in little rooms in my head forever.

And love. Because if trust makes love, love makes… everything else. Without stealing from Moulin Rouge, love is one of those basic ingredients for getting on with life. I had to figure out how to love me before I could direct that love anywhere else. I have to love me now even if I don’t love some of the decisions I made and where they took me. I have to love me now because me now is all I am. That I am at all is a love I thought I’d never feel for myself.

Happy birthday, beautiful. I don’t have to forget. I just have to let go and go on. Every new year is a rebirth. Happy (slightly belated) rebirthday to me.

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