I remember when I first heard Ryan Adams’ “29”, an album that combines traditional ballad storytelling and the woes of getting older and realizing certain awful truths about the way your life has panned out, and thinking about how that would be me on my 29th birthday, and how that kind of reflection would soon become the last nine years of my life.
When I turned 20, it felt weird. And old.
I had a friend who was 20 when I was 17-18 and I thought that she was so old. We’d talk about it. About how old she was, and how we couldn’t imagine being 20.
Then I was 21 and felt like so many 20-year olds do: I’m legal everywhere. Which was something I took advantage of when i went to New York City for the firs time.
When I was 22 I was gutted and heartbroken and dejected and everything was awful. I learned lessons I’m glad I learned at 22 as opposed to now when I’m too far gone as an “adult” to learn silly childish lessons about love.
When I was 23 I turned everything around; I got a job, I lost weight, I went out for drinks with my friends and he was there. I petulantly didn’t even look at him all night, save to thank him for a very unwelcome birthday gift he’d given me. Everything was different, but good-different.
When I was 24, I was beginning to be an adult. I had clearer goals and clearer trajectories (although in the end, none of what I thought my life would look like then actually ended up being how my life looked at all). I had everything in its right place. If I remember correctly, this was one of the best birthdays I ever had.
When I was 25, I went to Seattle for the first time for my birthday and saw Ryan Adams perform a solo acoustic show at Benaroya Hall. It was one of the most magical and memorable birthdays of my life and I fell in love – deep love – with the pacific northwest.
When I was 26, I celebrated my birthday in New York City. It was the last of the birthday weekends. It was the end of an era, but I didn’t know it yet.
When I was 27 I lived in Vancouver and had an incredibly low-key birthday. I was stressed about my teaching practicum. I didn’t have a lot of friends. I felt lonely in a place I loved but didn’t yet ‘know’ and couldn’t yet ‘feel out’. Everything was different and everything was strange. And I kind of appreciated that.
When I was 28 the Oilers won their first game of the 14-15 season. I was sitting with the love of my life eating Thai food at Papaya Hut and we were the only people in the restaurant listening to the game live on web radio. The final goal was scored, we went and bought a bottle of champagne, then went back to his place to watch the highlights. It was one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had.
When I think of 29, I think that all of this – this shifting in locations, these strenuous lonely nights working for the weekend, these long stretches of unemployment, the completion of two university degrees and the changing of careers, my first time getting fired, my first time getting hired into a professional organization, the first time having enough confidence in my vocation that I actually (sometimes) feel/felt like I know/knew what’s happening.. it’s been truly a loaded, full, odd decade. Entering into the last of these years is for me, something that has made the impossible possible in ways I didn’t expect. I’m lucky. I’m lucky to have financial and moral support from myself and those around me to be able to achieve and enjoy the things I’ve achieved and enjoyed. I’m lucky to be given a shot at a career that I find to be truly wonderful at the best of times, and terrifyingly frustrating but never ever boring at the worst of times. Our lives are full of the best and worst moments, the moments that make us who we are and how we feel about everything.
What we love and what we’ve been through make us who we are. My twenties, more than any other time in my life, has helped me clearly see everything that’s happened in my past and what could potentially happen in my future. To come to so many revelations and conclusions and to end what needed to end and begin what needed to begin, has taken more courage and more letting go and more balls-out guts than I knew I had. I celebrate 29 with a clear-eyed vision that I’ve been around the milky way and back and I’ve discovered who I want to come with me when I do it all over again.