Today is my birthday, and I am now 22. I have honestly been having a really rough time the last two weeks leading up to this day, which very few people in my life have understood.
“Why aren’t you happy? This is such an accomplishment for you!”
They’re right, this is a big accomplishment. It is a testament to how hard I worked in treatment to get myself out of a very dark place.
But it still feels terrifying.
I realize that sounds ridiculous. I’m alive, I’m pretty healthy, I’m pretty successful, my life is basically together and 98% of the time I am happy. So why does celebrating another year of my existence feel like walking on glass?
Four years ago today was the worst day of my life. I had spent the night before in an ER, and they waited the duration of the night to admit me into the psychiatric ward so that I could sign myself in. September 20, 2012 was the most humiliated I had ever felt. September 21, 2012 was the most desperately hopeless I had ever felt.
My 18th birthday was a reminder that I was not capable of caring for myself. My 19th birthday was a reminder that I was not capable of caring for myself. My 20th birthday was a reminder that I was not capable of caring for myself.
21 was the first birthday that felt like I could live for the rest of however long my life naturally is. I turned 21 sober, I got ice cream with my friends and drove home listening to loud music. I felt okay. But I just kept trying to avoid thinking about the fact that I never planned to get that far.
That is the fear. It is the fear of growth and change. It is the fear that is based in the fact that, throughout my teenage years, I never thought I’d have to grow up. I never thought I’d get to a point where living became more appealing than not. I never thought I’d get to a point where I am protective of my own existence. So I never planned to be here. I never planned to get to college graduation, or to have a career, or anything that goes along with growing up.
I am afraid because I never planned this (which is a testament to my perfectionism). But I am learning that not planning can lead to some amazing things.
In the last year, that I never planned, I met some amazing people. I worked an internship, and got my current job. I found a career that I think I will love. I got some really awesome body art and modifications. I went on amazing trips to Boston and San Francisco and Costa Rica and Monterey. I laughed, a lot, because the people around me made me laugh. I started writing again. I started smiling again. I did cool things that desperate, hopeless, 18 year-old me would not have done.
Fear is valid, but I will not let it hold me back from being. Nothing ever turns out as planned, anyways. If I embrace the growth and change, then I will discover and become who I truly am.
I am 22 now and I know how to take care of myself. I am 22 and I am excited for a future that I didn’t plan, because it looks like it’ll be awesome. I am 22 and I am so loved.
I choose to embrace the change, and the fear, and let them make me a stronger human being.