I turned 21 this March in the middle of the Coronavirus outbreak. Talk about a birthday to remember, right? Turning 21 is supposed to be this major celebration—drinking, socialization, friends. It’s supposed to be a “coming of age.” Instead, my birthday was spent safely inside my home, thinking—something I’ve been doing a lot of lately.
I thought about a lot of things: how long it’ll be before the insanity of my boredom will drive me to physically pull my hair out, how good my birthday cake will taste when I get off the couch to get it, but more notably, how I’d put so much pressure on this day—this random, insignificant day—to serve as some sort of catalyst to magically pull my life together. The life that had, for some reason, felt so out of my physical control.
Twenty-one is a funny age. It’s that age where everything starts feeling larger than life, and you’ve got to find some way to hold all the biggest, most daunting problems of the world on your tiny little shoulders. That’s a tall order for anyone.
I’ve found that most of the pressure we find ourselves crushed under is the pressure we put on ourselves. Funny how that works, right? That’s the pressure that keeps us up at night. That’s the pressure that lingers, even after our successes. That’s the pressure that makes every bump in the road feel like a hurdle we can’t jump over. That’s the pressure we inflict. But is cutting that out really as easy as snapping our fingers? I wouldn’t say so.
At 21, I thought I’d wake up fresh. I thought this would be my fresh start. That all the screw ups and all the mistakes of the last 21 years would magically fall away. I had this unrealistic expectation that the cracks in my resolve and the flaws in my personality would correct themselves. I really thought 21 would be my year.
The truth is, I’m not really sure where I got this idea that life would change when I woke up on my 21st, but the second it sunk in that life wasn’t any different than it was the night before, this feeling of disappointment crept in before I even knew it.
That’s when it hit me: I didn’t really think life would change. I hoped it would. I prayed it would. I was sitting around for months and months looking forward to the excuse of “new year, new me.” I was waiting for someone or something else to fix me. It was a painful reality, but I was suddenly aware of one thing: I wasn’t prepared to fix me.
You see, 21st birthdays (or any birthdays, honestly) aren’t these magical pills we take to fix everything wrong in our lives. One good thing about the universe is that nothing has that much power. Well, except maybe you. The only thing in the whole wide world that has that much power, the power to change your life, is you.
My 21st might not have been the day where everything fell together, but it wasn’t the day that everything fell apart, either. It was just a day, no pressure or strings attached, just as it should’ve been all along. I broke those chains of pressure and anxiety and chose to just live, and that was the best choice I could’ve ever made.
My birthday didn’t serve the purpose I thought it would. It didn’t change my life, but it did change how I chose to see it. I recognize my power now. I know that turn-arounds don’t happen overnight. I learned not to put my trust in ideas, but in faith and in hope and in strength. I’ve learned to see things a different way, and I couldn’t be more thankful for my silly 21st birthday for showing me the power that I had within me all along.