It's funny that I love days that signify something different or a shift, like New Year's or the first day of school, (or the first day of summer), or a Monday, or my birthday, because I'm pretty terrible at actually taking advantage of the symbol of that day. I'll spend time carefully writing out my goals for the New Year, categorizing them by which part of my life they are geared for, and then make sure that they are actually "attainable". I've heard it said that goals must be "SMART" (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based) and believe me when I say my laundry list of goals for the year is always filled with SMART goals that I can achieve, hands down.
That's why when I start making them, I think about what is realistic for me: Instead of being active 7 days a week, I'll do 6, I'll only buy coffee out 5 times a week (unless of course I'm going with someone, then I'll make exceptions to buy it as much as I want in the name of friendship), and instead of mac & cheese as my go to quick food option, I'll do pizza with veggies. I'll also learn guitar, get back into piano, try my hand at acting (again...brush off my skills from the ol' high school theater days), and read 52 books in the year (that's only 1 a week).
By the time day 2 rolls around after New Year's Eve (January 2), I've likely forgotten my goals and continued about the New Year like most other New Years, living my best unplanned life over here.
On a Monday or at the start of school, I'll think through everything I need to "be successful and prepared" for the week, for the school year, to get the most done that I possibly can as soon as I can to open up time and space to freely work toward my personal goals. I write a to-do list with check boxes and then feverishly scribble every minute detail of things that should be done--laundry leftover from my uncompleted list 3 weeks ago, organize the closet (I don't know if that ever got completed after 4 years in our apartment), respond to or delete all of my emails (just last week there were 11,000 of them), plan my week (even though I know it never goes as planned), and run errands.
15 minutes after the list is completed, I've probably crawled back in bed to start responding to emails on my phone (code for looking at instagram) and begun to rethink how I actually want my day to go, if my list is accurate, and if I really want to follow it after all.
For all of the years that I have worked with youth and young adults, coaching and mentoring them in their holistic development and providing them with resources to be successful, you'd think that I would have practiced some of this on my own, or at least be a little better at it. But I'm not, and with each new morning it usually crosses my mind once (or a thousand times) to be intentional with my time, my goals, my life.
When I fail to check those boxes or reach those goals, I comfort myself with the notion that I can always start again in a minute (two minutes...three minutes...5 hours...okay, there's tomorrow hopefully).
Even still, I love to connect that fresh start, new beginning feeling with tangible markers-like my birthday.
It could be because my family is filled with go-getters that make meaning from practically nothing (in good ways) and celebrate the smallest bits of life always (we're all together hanging out--ice cream for everyone!).
It could also be because my dad is always having these unreal, epic birthday stories of hiking up a mountain and feeding unicorns from the palm of his hand, or walking down the beach at sunrise and 132 dolphins (he counted) were playing in the waves while three rainbows arched brightly above them, and I feel like my next year of life should have some sense of extraordinary magic too. (This morning I planned a sunrise hike to start my birthday to see if I could rival the birthday experiences that my dad has had, but I ended up skipping it because, well, my bed sounded really comfortable to be quite honest. Let me tell you, that pillow and mug of mediocre coffee was something extraordinary no doubt)!
Symbols, markers, having something physical to help remember a season, a moment, a person, to see growth, to see where we've been and just how far we've made it, it is a gift. It is a gift to have a rising and setting sun, transitions between seasons, days and months and years to keep track of time, Mondays (as difficult as they can be), holidays, and birthdays.
Naturally, the gift isn't always easy to accept, and there can be pain in looking back, in remembering days shared with those that are no longer here, struggling to heal from hurt that lingers. Meeting these symbols, these days, can feel like a heavy burden bearing down on our already tired shoulders.
Yet even still, I consider them a gift.
There is still life to be lived, as long as we are given the days to live it.
Some days (most days) may be much less productive, "successful", fun, full than others, but that doesn't change that as long as we are breathing, existing, we are in it, and we can choose to engage with it, or let it slip past us (like the quickness of time when I spend it playing candy crush while in the bathroom--"I've been in here 20 minutes already?!").
34 isn't really a birthday that people think of as being significant. I don't get any new privileges (the last special age privilege came with not having to pay extra fees when renting a car for my 25th birthday) and it isn't regarded in the greeting card section as important. ("Numbered" cards are reserved for 1st birthdays, every birthday leading up to 13, "sweet" 16, "adult" 18, "legal drinking adult" 21, followed by the "YOU MADE IT!" decade transitions--30, 40, 50, 60, 70+).
And although birthdays matter to me in general, this one feels significant in a way that I can't quite explain.
It could be the life transitions (nothing major, just quitting my job, moving out, not having home base, not sure what's around the corner in practically all aspects of life) or it could be that I've entered what one may call "their mid-thirties" and that holds meaning in and of itself.
Whatever it may be, I am paying attention and want to move into this new year with eyes wide open and my heart fully receptive. There's a chance I'll get better at getting organized, setting (and actually completing realistic) goals, taking more risks, not letting too much time slip by as I mindlessly peruse social media in the bathroom, and beat TJ at level 4 in Tetris.
And there's a chance I won't.
But I won't let that stop me from trying.