Tomorrow (Tuesday) is my birthday! I will be turning the big 21 this year, and have already lined up the week with plans and outfits to properly celebrate the occasion.
Around the time of my birthday is when I reflect upon the past year: how that age treated me, what kind of year I had, and what I’m looking to improve as I begin a new age. This is something I’ve done since I was young, intensified by the fact that new advancements and privileges within the Church come with age. Thus, it’s always been a time for me to reflect and predict.
I have to say that when looking back at this past year as a 20 year old, I sigh. With relief. I started writing for “Breaking the Silence” 4 months into my 20th year of age. And already, 20 had dealt me a few hard blows that I was still trying to catch my breath from. Had it not been for my classes, wonderful family and friends, and opportunities on campus, bouncing back may not have happened. It was only this past week that I realized this, and how much has changed since I turned 20.
In fact, thinking back, I wasn’t even excited to turn 20. Reflecting on 20 makes me extremely grateful for the place I’m in now. I’m learning to embrace new things, new experiences, and whatever comes my way. And I am beyond enthusiastic to turn 21 and see where the road will take me.
As I turn 21, however, I realize that 20 is not completely behind me. I may turn a new age and start a new chapter in my life, but I carry with me everything previous: the lessons I’ve learned, the emotions I’ve felt, and the experiences I’ve had. I have always adored the following passage from Sandra Cisneros’ “Eleven” for this exact reason:
What they don't understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you're eleven, you're also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one. And when you wake up on your eleventh birthday you expect to feel eleven, but you don't. You open your eyes and everything's just like yesterday, only it's today. And you don't feel eleven at all. You feel like you're still ten. And you are--underneath the year that makes you eleven.
Like some days you might say something stupid, and that's the part of you that's still ten. Or maybe some days you might need to sit on your mama's lap because you're scared, and that's the part of you that's five. And maybe one day when you're all grown up maybe you will need to cry like if you're three, and that's okay. That's what I tell Mama when she's sad and needs to cry. Maybe she's feeling three.
Because the way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree trunk or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one. That's how being eleven years old is.
You don't feel eleven. Not right away. It takes a few days, weeks even, sometimes even months before you say Eleven when they ask you. And you don't feel smart eleven, not until you're almost twelve. That's the way it is.