Blog readers, hello! I am now writing to you as an aged young adult, having celebrated my nineteenth birthday this week. From my first hike on the Appalachian Trail to my first gluten-free birthday cake, this birthday was marked with memorable blessings.
My birthday is known for sneaking up on me, always coming with a frenzy of school-is-almost-out excitement. In high school, I remember even having final exams on my birthday! Luckily, exam days were long finished before June 9th for me this year, and my birthday was packaged all-in-one with a family and friends reunion and high school graduation celebration.
June 9th in Maryland is also the time for the sweet honeysuckle to bloom and for the fireflies to return – magnificent creatures that sparkle in my backyard and call to light up glass jars.
My family celebrates birthdays in the style of an Olympic triathlon. We begin with the close family dinner, then the extended family dinner, then the bonfire with friends. Like all rituals, this brings its share of planning and work, but also the blessings of shared gathering.
My favorite memories from this past weekend include swimming in the Potomac River with my best friend Leah, followed by a hike in the mid-Atlantic Oak forest that I have missed so dearly. I also enjoyed the signature Italian-style family dinner with my Mom, cousins, grandparents, and siblings, marked by goofy story sharing and lots of good pasta!
I was so grateful for how lovingly and openly my family members, friends, and I reconnected. It seemed that our time apart gave me an opportunity to appreciate these lifelong relationships in a deeper way, feeling the warmth of my Grandma’s hugs, the joy of my cousins’ laughter, the eagerness of my little sister’s creative spirit. My family has been so supportive throughout my time at Pearson and now that I am home, they are helping me to regain my energy and health. My family members are also the #1 supporters of my blog, so they inspire me to keep writing!
This birthday marks a transition from adolescence to adulthood, and while I remain an in-between, I feel more grounded and interdependent. “Independence” (and moving three thousand miles away) proved to be only a step in maturity for me; I learned that I become whole through my relationships to others. I also feel more self-aware, as even this past week I have learned about my physical, emotional, and spiritual make-up (five books in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic wisdom taught me humans are so complex!).
So, in American culture, birthdays always come with gifts and cakes – and mine was no exception. My favorite gift from family was my first massage – it was incredibly healing! But the best present of all was finally feeling present with those I loved, at home and at peace.
Life is slowing down, and one day at a time I am learning how to undo the “work mode” in my brain. This weekend I am going camping at my grandfather’s with my mom and sister for a chance to just be in nature, followed by a weekend with my dad to celebrate Fathers’ Day. I hope you, too, can reconnect with family this weekend!