For the longest time in my life, birthdays were really difficult. When I was still in the closet, I carried a huge weight of guilt on my shoulders about the lies and dishonesty I felt was necessary to hide the fact that I was female. To have people express their love and good wishes on me at that time made me realize just how isolated I was. That’s why, five years ago today, I came out on my 22nd birthday. It was terrifying and embarrassing and humbling, but ultimately one of the most pivotal moments in my life. In the following years I moved from being ashamed of who I was to being loud, proud, and unapologetic. In those five short years I started working with LGBTQ youth, went back to school, made countless friends and connections, met the man I’m going to marry, entered into the public speaking circuit, and I’m now the editor for this wonderful website that I hope you enjoy. I no longer dread birthdays. Instead I view them as a day give thanks for the life I’ve lived and the people I share it with.
While the congratulatory Facebook posts pile onto my wall, I think of all the people I’ve met in those five short years. All the queer kids I’ve worked with, all the godless heathens I’ve met, all the friends I’ve made, and all the minds I’ve changed just by being honest about who I am and how all of those people have made me into a better, happier person. It’s awe-inspiring to think of what a difference a small amount of time and people can make.
For some reason, 30 seems much closer now that I’m 27. I can see small signs of my age that are probably invisible to everyone else. I have some faint smile lines around my eyes and mouth, my joints (especially my hips and knees) complain a lot more than they used to, I see the occasional gray hair, and many of the pop culture references made by my kids escape me. But I would never lie about my age and I’m not ashamed about whatever signs people may or may not notice. The lines, stretch marks, sun spots, and everything else are just badges for survival in the face of life. I look at aging like leveling up at a game. The older you get, the more you’ve accomplished.
As an atheist I don’t believe in an afterlife, and that means I have a very finite amount of time on this world to experience as much as life has to offer and make as much of a difference as I can. On the one hand, I’m an insignificant speck of carbon whirling around on a rock that’s orbiting a star on the arm of a galaxy that’s still infinitesimal in the scale of the entire universe itself. But I’m also a fiancee, a sister, a daughter, a friend, and role model who adores my fiance, sister, mother, friends, and kids. It may not mean much in the universal scale, but it doesn’t need to. My life is my own to share with who I wish, and the love and joy I’ve experienced is what makes all the difference in the journey.