Personal reflections

Birthday Post

While most of my restored archive posts came through Free Jinger and the WayBack Machine, not all of those were saved. This post is back online for the first time since 2016. I’ve also added some notes, six years later, in brackets.

A few weeks ago, an unexpected fire put my family on pre-evacuation. This is me at our host house. [Image could not be restored. I have very few pictures of myself anymore. I remember what it looked like, though: I was standing with bare feet on top of a tire swing, one arm flying out. I’m smiling brightly, my metal-rimmed glasses and new braces shining. My long, straight hair falls around my shoulders as I hold on to the rope. I’m wearing a yellow dress that just reaches my knees, but revealed too much of my womanly chest and shoulders to wear without the jean dress I unbuttoned and wore over it like a long denim frock/short-sleeved long coat. It was a soft summer day, except for the fire we were evacuated from.]

I didn’t queue a post today, because I wanted to write a raw recording of my thoughts on turning twenty. Most of my blog posts are pre-written, which is why I’m punctual six days a week. Perhaps there’s a life lesson there about preparation, like if I’m prepared for scheduled events, they’ll turn out well.

But like birthdays, some events are irrevocably scheduled. They come and go and cannot be stopped. Unlike birthdays, many of the things we face in the future are unforeseen, and we cannot be blamed for our lack of preparation. All that is left is reaction to circumstances, and finding out what sort of story will be told.  And I wonder, what tells a better story: preparation for the known, or preparation for the unknown?

I knew today would be like this. I have no plans for my birthday, my family will celebrate it tomorrow. I got my braces tightened and springs added yesterday, and right now I’m in so much pain I’m surprised I slept last night. I knew this would happen since I scheduled my orthodontist appointment for the day before my birthday, so this was a foreknown event.

How should one prepare for an unforeseen event? Only strong characters can respond well to extraordinary circumstances. It is through the fire of conflict and climax that a character is forged as either lovable or despicable to the audience. The only way to prepare for the unexpected is to be the best I can be.

If planned events, or expected events, are dreaded, will they be properly prepared for? Is it better to look forward to an unwanted event, like going back to college or getting painful restraints on your teeth, with dread, or with courage? Does it change the experience itself to look forward to it? [I am so glad that I no longer live with such trepidation, or comparing dread with courage, as if one is better than the other. I know now that life is both unfair and wild, and no amount of preparation or lack of preparedness, or my belief about an event, makes me responsible or good or worthy.]

Today I turned twenty years old. I don’t feel different. I’m the same kid who felt old when I turned from age six to age seven. I’m the same kid who discovered my birthday would be happy if I did my chores quickly and enjoyed the day instead of dragging out my share of the housework when I turned ten. [To this day, I struggle with just chilling, sitting down, allowing myself to simple exist and be instead of always having to do. I am still that same kid – the girl full of wonder and reflective thoughts – but I realize this discovery happened because I was adapting and surviving, as all of us do, to my surroundings. What I failed to remember at the time of writing, and would only uncover years later, was not that I dreaded the housework itself, but that “dragging out my share” often meant confusion about how to do housework and was met with violence from my mother.]

I’m the same kid who got up before the sunrise on my fourteenth birthday to sing worship with the awakening birds on the cool mountainside where I live. [Nature is still great, but I’m glad I don’t have to grovel before an infinite being I shouldn’t try to comprehend anymore – for my 26th birthday, as I write this, I’m wearing a forest-green dress that was given to me, perfect for going barefoot and communicating with mother Earth.] I’m the same kid who started wearing flare jeans when I turned seventeen, for I always thought they looked like the number “17.” I’m the same kid who registered to vote the day I turned eighteen because I’m so politically active. [I’m also pretty burned out on the political system now, but I’m researching justice and advocacy and effective ways to alleviate suffering of all kinds.]

I’m the same kid I was this morning when I woke up and thought about how hungry I was but didn’t want it to hurt to eat. [This sentence honestly gave me pause. I have no idea what I’m referring to here, except that my eating disorder is more prevalent as I review my old journals and work to heal my relationship with food and self-care.]

I’m the same Cynthia I always was, but I’m different, because I’ve prepared for both the unexpected and the expected. Birthdays are expected but unchangeable. I can’t reschedule my age. I can, though, make the most of the day. And regardless of how much I knew about an event before it happened, I can always control the way I respond to it. [Oh, how little I knew about psychology and how little our own decisions shape our emotional responses.]

I can say with confidence that I don’t know what will happen this year. My plan is to make every day count because I’m striving to be the best I can be. [And years later, I can say I’ve done an awful lot of striving, and while the progress I’ve made was well worth the fight, now I know that it’s okay not to strive so hard – I am a human and it’s okay for me to get tired and short-tempered and just to be, not constantly feeling like I’m not there yet, or I have to be doing something productive at all times.]