Red, yellow, and blue balloons squeak as they press together; expanding in the sun, moving in the wind. POP! I jump from the explosive sound and giggle, cake-fueled and delirious with the idea of opening presents.
This is what my birthday used to look like.
This week, as I turn 27, while still full of giggles, I want no balloons. Instead of cake, I am enjoying frozen berry sorbet, and gifts are not the focus of the day. I find myself instead contemplating my past, present, future, and the concept of education.
Many of us leave our student “hats” on the graduation stage and hope for a life with as little homework as possible. My higher education taught me a different lesson. It taught me to take charge of my learning and, with guidance, structure my own course work. I left school with a renewed passion for learning and instead of setting down my student “hat,” I took this principle of self-education into the world with me. My birthday marks registration day.
As I blow out the candles quickly melting my sorbet, I set my intention for the next year.
One: May I always be as grateful as I am today for finding my path. (Poof)
Two: May I be more giving. (Poof)
Three: This wish I’ll keep to myself (Poof)
What is the fun of wishes, unless you keep at least one to yourself.
As our birthdays approach, I think we all naturally begin to take stock of our lives thus far, and specifically where and who we were a year ago. Somehow though, these moments of reflection, at least in my peer group, seem to morph into a sense that birthdays equal one more step on the march to some dreaded future age. In this natural time of reflection, instead of begrudging the turning of a number, why not celebrate the completion of another year of learning? Life is an amazing teacher.
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” – Henry Ford
I admit that I am young both in age and zest for learning, but I am still old enough to question the cultural acceptance of birthday blues, and to say thank you for this day of reflection by completing a little birthday homework.
Here is my birthday homework:
1. Watch the sunrise.
(The first sun of a new age.)
2. Write a list of things I am grateful for (I try to get to 108.)
(Becoming vegan, bathing in the river, trying jackfruit, traveling with my mother, the love of friends)
3. Write a list of ten personality traits and skills I would like to adopt or strengthen over the next year.
(Patience, humility, driving a stick shift, becoming a hula hooping master…)
4. Smile at what I’ve learned this year, no matter how big or small these lessons were.
(How to chop wood, the power in admitting your mistakes, veganic gardening, making my own poi and not being afraid to smack myself in the face with them…)
5. Hug everyone I can get my hands on.
(One of the keys to life.)
6. Watch the sunset.
(It is almost impossible to watch a sunset and not dream. – Bern Williams)
7. Say thank you.
(To my friends, my family, the clerk at the store, the sun. There is no such thing as being too grateful.)
So Happy Birthday to all of you out there. I hope this next year brings you every lesson you need and every challenge you can face, and that your adventure around the sun is a bright one. It’s a big world out there and 365 days is plenty of time to get your homework done.