It’s what we say to signify the passing of another year in our lives, marked individually for us by the day we were born according to the Gregorian calendars in most parts of the world. We measure these treks as more than just another personal solar revolution however; more than by just numbers and time. I mean, no doubt that we allot much to the number of years we have spent living. Sometimes, we count most heavily the numeric milestones we meet – we turn 1, 13, 16, 21, 30, 40, 50,.. on and on and on… until there are no more.
But was does another trip around the sun really mean to each of us?
I think of my birthday akin to New Year’s Day in many ways. For me, it’s a day of looking back as much as it is looking forward. It’s a day to take inventory and check in with what I’ve done with a year’s time, and what I want to do in the coming year (or further).
It’s a time to reflect on all these things, but it’s also a time to be grateful. It’s a day to think about all the experiences I’ve gone through (both the bad and the good). Did I become the person I wanted to be by this age? I think back to younger me and ask this question, of course. Is younger me content with the choices I’ve made and the path I forged? Will older me in twenty years or more (if I’m fortunate to see that many more years!) be a version of myself of whom I’m proud and pleased?
Time, as the tracking of our lives here on this rotating and orbiting blue marble through space, is to me a paradox that is both cyclical and linear. It is just abstract enough that we believe we understand it, feel it, and know it, because we see ourselves and everything in the world age; but let us not be fooled that it’s still a mystery that eludes us in the most insidious way. I blinked and went from a child to a teenager. I slept one night and arose from a teenager to a young adult. I watched a sunset fall and progressed from young-young to young-old. Some say that the days are long, but the years are short. This is a bitter-sweet acknowledgment, perhaps the best I’ve heard, to explain the intangible passing of time.
And so here I am today, another trip made around the sun ends as another year begins.
I do feel so grateful. I feel personal gratification for what I’ve accomplished in my years, and still hungry enough to work towards more in the years ahead. I am so very thankful for the state of my current health, as I have learned this is truly one of our greatest gifts. I am happy for the seasons of being torn down as they allowed for subsequent regrowth with the flourishing of a stockier spine and sturdier skin. The inverse trade-off we get from deducting our youth while gaining experience and wisdom should not be feared or scoffed, but celebrated and deeply valued. Unfortunately, this is a deal most will not understand or appreciate in their younger years (I include myself in this claim!), but by grace, one day you will.
Overall, I am in a very happy place today. I thank God for the abundance of blessings in my life. I look around and I see them all with a full heart. I look back and I’m no longer young-young, but that is both okay and good. Those are years for learning, mistakes, and hopefully growth. It feels great to say, “I’ve paid my dues.” I feel like I’m at a sweet spot in my journey, where I can truly begin to enjoy the proverbial fruits of my labor, even though the sowing was arduous. Am I older? Of course. But like I said, that is both okay and good. And I can’t tell you exactly when you will pass that threshold (and you will!), when you will both understand and agree with that, but I want to encourage anyone younger than me to keep at your sowing and keep at your growing. I mean, we never really stop (or I should hope we do not until our last breath), but do your best to understand the delicate balance between the real brevity of your life and the illusion that you have more time. This is a message I oft must remind myself, truth be told. And to those older than myself, I look to the ones who just the same can provide me encouragement and hope. Time is a theme I have frequently revisited in my writing and songs over the course of my life. I wrote a poem for my sister as a birthday gift when she turned 21, about how time is fleeting. I later transformed the premise of that poem into a song I called “Hold On.” On my own birthday today, I think about some of the lyrics of that song, that go like this:
“Through these years I have seen it change,
And now I wonder if I even have a place,
But if there’s one promise I need you to make me,
It’s to give me something to look forward to..”
So as I think about this next trip around the sun, I will think about those things I have to look forward to as well, because even though time relentlessly marches on, hope is what makes the time worth living.