Every year as my birthday rolls around, the same scenario plays out. I find some book to read, a game to play, a friend to pass the time with until 1:23am arrives on the clock. Birthday wishes and sentiments before that seem strange to me, even though it is technically my birthday as the clock strikes 12am. That's never mattered to me, though. I was born at 1:23am and each and every year, I wish myself a happy birthday at that moment and then, the fun can begin.
I usually spend the time leading up to that point gazing backwards. I think of the path my life has taken. I reflect on every fork that I've come to and which direction I chose to follow. I think of birthdays past and those I spent them with. I imagine my life now and my life before and every decision that lead to every change and every person that's been along for the journey.
Now, don't misunderstand me as I follow this thought train. I wouldn't change the decisions I've made, as each one has lead to the person I am now and I accept that. I can't change those choices even if I wanted to, so it really doesn't matter.
At this time every twelve months, however, I let my mind wander the paths of yesteryear. I like to imagine what my life would be like had some choices been made differently. I ponder what my life would be like now had some friendships not faltered, had some relationships not ended, or if others had begun that never were.
If that one relationship had not forced me to reevaluate my life, would I still have the same wants and needs that I desire in the present?
If that one other relationship had ever turned into one, would we still be together now? Would our friendship have dissolved the same way?
If that one friend hadn't started down the path of adulthood before myself, would we be able to better understand each other now? On the same note, did I really mature faster than that other friend or did I just stop trying to understand too quickly?
Could I have been a better friend? What about a better daughter or granddaughter? Could I have been a better girlfriend?
I don't only question the pieces of my past, though. I also reflect happily on the memories that are still with me even after so many years.
There was that time she and I jumped around in my driveway in the middle of the night in my big orange sleeping bag bellowing, "I'm a burrito! I'm a burrito!"
I remember the year she stole my giant Pixie Stix and I chased her around my living-room. She stumbled around in my pajama pants, which were about four sizes too big.
I still shake my head and smile at the night I climbed through his window so I could sit with him when he was drunk without waking his parents up.
I feel warmed by the memory of standing on his balcony as he hugged me and told me that choosing to live so that someone else wouldn't feel hurt or guilty by the loss of me made me someone with more heart than anyone he'd known.
I remember laughing in my room with fuzzy posters over 'Blue chicken" and "Orange Kitty." Those inside jokes will be remembered forever.
I remember the night he told me that he was glad that I was alive because he didn't know if he would have been without me.
There are days in life that are sad, maddening, exciting, infuriating, frustrating, confusing, wonderful, memorable, terrifying and exhilarating.
There are days, and will be days ahead, when I wonder how things could ever feel good again when they feel so bad. In contrast, there will be days where I will wonder what I ever did for so much happiness to be bestowed upon me and how I could possibly ever feel down again.
To be cliche, life is a journey that no one escapes alive. My game plan? I want to jump into everything that makes me happy with no thought for the consequences. I want to take terrifying risks so I'll never question what would have happened if I had. I want to tell every person that means something to me just how they make me feel. I want to smile with my friends and family, cry with them, laugh with them; I want to inspire people, I want to encourage them and I want to be encouraged and inspired by them.
I've spent twenty-seven years running, stopping, questioning, grieving, appreciating, exploring, admiring, risking, laughing and loving. If I'm lucky, I've only lived a third of the life that I could. I want the chance to do all of that again at least twice more.
Then when the time is done, and I'm hopefully wrinkled and wise, I'll be ready to step into the next great adventure with no regrets, pride in who I was and contentment in all that I accomplished.