May 5, 1999. May 5, 2017. Eighteen years.
I can’t quite fathom how quickly time flies. I know, it sounds silly, but I remember everything, so clearly, so vividly, and it seems like I was a little kid just yesterday.
Instead, I’m finishing up senior year. Graduation is next month. College starts in the fall. There are so many changes ahead in the coming months, and this next year is going to be one for the books. I’m sure of it.
Birthdays, to me, are nostalgic. Birthdays are fluffy yellow cakes with billowy chocolate icing, dotted with colorful sprinkles. Birthdays are candlelight and flickering shadows and smiles. Birthdays are celebrations, victories, good food and friends and family. Trips and balloons and confetti. Pretty dresses, sunshine, photographs, ice cream. Moonlight, wishes, magic.
Over 18 years, I’ve experienced so much that I’m beyond grateful for. I’ve met so many amazing people, from teachers, to bus drivers, to senior citizens, to little kids and everyone in between. Of course, there are a thousand days I would, on first instinct, give back to the universe if I could.
Thinking about it, though, these bad days, these tragic experiences, these failures and turmoils and rejections, they make us stronger. This year, I’ve been hurt by people close to me. I was waitlisted at what I thought was my dream college, even though my stats and numbers were above what they look for, and then waitlisted from another college. I lost myself a little, back in the summer, and I imagine that I wandered a little off the path I thought I was guaranteed to set out on.
Miraculously, though, each time the carriage has been derailed in the fairytale story that I believe is life, stumbling through the forest, a little bruised, a little broken, I always spot a sign. I like to think of it as one of those old wooden posts, with arrows going in each direction, chipped paint outlining where to go next. And suddenly, throughout this year, I’ve turned and carried on.
Whether shifting my career idea from doctor to teacher and back and then, completely new to occupational therapy, or struggling with the moral and heartbreaking situations within my internship, or adapting to the whole new world of autism and special needs, I have grown so much over the past year. It has been a year of changes, of struggles and overcoming, of happiness and celebrations and tears and so many huge changes.
I can’t wait for this next year, for new experiences and all the change in the world.
Bring it on!
For now, let’s talk about my birthday weekend and all the fun + thoughts it brought with it.
Waking up Friday morning, earlier than I needed to, my mother and sister stood above me, and even though their faces were blurred, their beaming and celebratory voices reached me through the fog of exhaustion still lingering over me.
“Happy birthday, KK!” Excitedly, bubbling.
“Go back to sleep. Love you!” Happily, calming.
I drifted back to sleep for another hour, cue the tinkling melody of the Apple alarm piercing my slumber and pulling me towards the day.
Stumbling down the hallway to the shower, the rain beating on the roof above me, loudly, thunderously, worried me for the prospects of the day while still being the calming sensation I’d always loved.
I take my time in the shower, thinking. Thinking about what it means to be 18. More than new privileges and responsibilities, but the opening of a whole new book, the turning of pages to a whole new horizon, filled with possibility. This is, somehow, the first age that I’ve felt. Truly sank into and belonged in. I’ve always been the girl my family joked was a toss-up between a 5 year old and a 90 year old, innocent and believing in magic and yet, philosophical and over analytical and moral and thoughtful.
I get dressed, do my makeup, look at myself for a few seconds longer than normal.
Downstairs. Louie, so excited to see me. How are we so lucky as to be in the presence of dogs? A bowl of frosted flakes and a cup of steaming tea find their way into my hands, and I curl up under a blanket with Lou, pondering what the day will bring and watching the first 15 minutes of Grey’s Anatomy from the night before.
I pull myself out from under the blanket and gather my things. The drive to my internship seems longer than usual. I set up quite a queue on Spotify to fight the grey, melancholy mood brought on by the buckets of thunderous, pouring rain slamming onto my windshield.
Sweet Caroline carries me through the morning commute.
I decide that it will be a sunshine day despite the rain.
J, my supervisor at the internship, frazzled and stressed out, realized it’s my birthday and shifted our plans to try and make it great.
I got to spend almost two hours in my favorite Life Skills classroom, with my favorite kids, and I’ve never seen so much laughter and chatter from these kids. Snorts from my favorite child and hugs from the shy girl who retreats into herself. They blushed and giggled when I let them know it was my birthday and that I was spending it with them. I heard stories of softball games, told through communication devices, and I felt so privileged to be able to spend my birthday with those who inspire me the most. Different but the same. So much love exists there.
When I got home, my mom and I discussed the day. Then, she brought me a large package wrapped in a pale pink wrapping paper, tied with a bow, white envelope resting gently against the top. Pulling it open, and stopping to pull the puppies back about every 3 seconds, I instantly smiled at the presents.
A storage container, presumably for my future freshman year dorm room, stocked to the brim with thoughtful items. Clothes, a car decal, and a lanyard all from my college. A few notebooks, a waterbottle. Then, my mom explains the contents of the envelope, smiling, that she and I would be traveling to a spa and staying the night after our relaxing spa treatment. I was beaming, happy, radiantly excited. Yay!
My mom, dad, and I dropped my sister, Lindsay, off for her track meet and went to grab dinner, at a restaurant I love called Rock Salt Grille in Westminster. They have this off the chain caprese salad with crabmeat and ugh, it is so good.
After dinner, we trekked back to the high school and then stayed to watch the track meet until its end. I love the feeling of settling in against the bleachers and just watching the people around me. It’s easy to forget that so many people are experiencing so many different things at every instant.
I slept in decently late on Saturday, just lounging in bed and feeling content with the world. Eventually, I got up and curled up under a blanket to get some things done, emails and blog posts and graphics.
My mom, Lindsay and I went to grab a quick lunch at Applebees, and all had salads. The main event of today, though, was to be dinner.
I changed into a black, high-necked dress that makes me feel good. It makes me feel 18. I refreshed my makeup and smiled in the mirror, flouncing the looser parts of my dress and getting so excited to go for our fancy meal.
Our family piled into the car and headed to Baltimore, on the road to Ruth’s Chris Steak House. It’s another gray, rainy day. I spend the hour-long ride reading, wrapped up in a book about a boy with autism, called Life, Animated.
When we arrived, parked successfully (which is always quite a challenge in the city) and got inside, we greeted our best family friend, Dre. She’s gorgeous and amazing and I love her to pieces. Our waiter at the restaurant was phenomenal, and the food was to die for. It was an amazing night.
When we finished the meal, outside was freezing, but we stood and took pictures anyway. It’s always fun getting to take nice photos when dressed up, downtown, and by the Inner Harbor.
I’m so tired, but so happy. To be surrounded by such loving people is an amazing thing that I’m grateful for every day.
This was a great birthday, and I hope the spirit of celebration can continue through the season of graduation, the summer before college, and more. The lessons I’ve learned over 18 years are only the beginning of who I am set to become, and I absolutely can’t wait for what’s to come. Cheers, to the next year.