After the greatest, sweetest, most perfect birthday of my life, I realized it doesn’t belong to me.
It shouldn’t. It doesn’t make sense.
It fits you better.
Let me tell you why.
Today I woke up, still reeling from two immaculate days in Santorini — literally the one place I’ve wanted to go my entire life. Realized while brushing my teeth that while I had already celebrated my birthday, I’m 21 today.
After much hesitation, I found the courage to finally buy something from the Tuesday morning fresh farmer’s market (in Italiano) & came home with four bags full of unbelievably fresh produce & salmon, a new fish guy named William, and a pride in myself so strong that I literally yelled and danced when I found no one was home. I called & told whoever I thought would care. I couldn’t stop smiling. I had a world-record productive afternoon sprinkled with every type of birthday greeting. Everything was binging and ringing. It was when I was on the tram to work, contently lapping at my absolute favorite GROM caffe gelato I treated myself to, humming and buzzing and glowing with a happiness I don’t think I’ve ever felt, that I realized this.
At 21 ripe-freakin’-years-old, I am only the composite of you.
I’m a mish-mash of all the people, throughout my whole life, who have and who do love me. And can show me, even halfway across the world. Who’ve molded me and scolded me and influenced me (good and/or bad) and treated me like I’ve never felt I’ve deserved. Like a superhuman. Like a queen. I’m the product of 21 years’ worth of your smiles, affirmations, homecooked meals, life talks, favors, rides home, paychecks, confessions, shared epiphanies, sacrifices, nights out, mornings in, shoulders to cry on and arms to squeeze (y’all know how I get when I’m excited).
I’m a meatloaf of everything you’ve given me.
When I’m scared, I take out a piece from someone braver than me and wear it and pretend to be you until I’m not scared anymore. When I’m angry, I squeeze a piece from someone with greater patience and serenity, and I carefully say what I think you would say.
I’m a mosaic mirror (like the kind from Pier One Imports) of different goodnesses that you’ve all lent me.
Look at me today and know:
You’ve done a million wonderful things in your life, and here’s one of them, looking right back at you..
Smiling. Probably also crying. Same dark skin & big hair that you’ve always known.
She’s 21 and will never find the right words to say how grateful she is for you.
They tell us all the time that these are the years that you decide
who you’re going to be
for the rest
of your life.
Today, I’ve made my decision.
I’m 21 and I’ve found that, above everything,
I am the composite of a zillion pieces of heart from the best people the world has to offer.
I love who I am, and who I am is you.
& I think that, for the rest of my adult life, that’s all I want to be. That’s all I need. That’ll be my sword; my big stick with which I’ll traverse the world, Teddy Roosevelt (though I can’t promise that whole speaking-softly thing).
If you’re worried about Berna the Elder (formerly known as the Younger) coming upon the adult world, don’t be. You’ve equipped her with enough and you’ll continue to. She’s just a little bigger now.
I may be young, but from this angle, the world doesn’t look so bad. And I have you to thank.
I could not think of a better birthday present.
From the bottom of my wannabe-Italian heart,
Thank you for me, and thank you for you.