This birthday daunted me for a month.
I was afraid that another year older meant a brighter light shone on my lack of a “normal life” and it is already forecasted that I, at 28, will not get married, buy a house or have a job that pays. A high number behind my age meant less acceptance for this chasing dreams, living in Africa thing I am doing. It would remind me, and everyone else, what I haven’t done yet as the years keep creeping.
While expressing these concerns, another volunteer – one also in his late 20s with a few work years before Peace Corps – said to me, “You have lived in two African countries. I think you are fine.”
Those words rung in my head for a few weeks and eventually prompted me to make a list entitled, “All These Things That I Have Done,” after one of my favorite The Killers songs. As it turns out, I have done a lot with my 28 years.
This morning, when I woke up a year older, I couldn’t help smiling. Twenty eight no longer seemed like a black cloud, but something to be proud of, as my friend TDH says, “It’s better than the alternative.” My youth hasn’t left me, but I am some experience behind my wheels, and more understanding of myself, to make wiser decisions.
Throughout the day, as I ran up and down the rolling hills of Lesotho, taught my students the Hokey Pokey before answering their teenage pregnancy questions, greeted herd boys and their sheep and giggled with my teachers, I realized that my life is not at a stalemate. It doesn’t matter what age I am, I am supposed to be here right now and there isn’t anywhere else I would rather be. This life is the one that I am called to and I am going to give it all I got, regardless if the timeline doesn’t match arbitrary expectations.
The other prong of my birthday fear was being reminded of how alone and isolated I am from those that I love. It is the sad fact that in my 28th year I will not see my family, at all. I didn’t want to think about that or the wine and cheese party not being had today.
Facebook has revolutionized the birthday, along with other parts of our daily lives. We are now wished a happy day way more than when face-to-face and telephones were the only modes of communication. It means something to have people from various parts of your life take the time to type out a few words. It means even more when you are on the other side of the world. All the posts, Tweets and Whats App messages reminded me that I may be on the other side of the world but I have many great people in my corner. I even got to hear my parents sing to me, prooving, as it were in doubt, that my goofiness is inherited.
At school, all the teachers wished me a happy birthday and one even gave me earrings. They made me feel like one of them and one of my favorite parts of the day was sitting and laughing with them.
I also felt the love of the Peace Corps family, with lots of messages and calls. The Friday before a large group of us met at a tourist spot for an amazing get together to celebrate my birthday as well as the births of two my dear friends. And, on Saturday, girls from my district are going to have another post-birthday party with wine, movies and good food. I may be away from my family, but I am not a lone.
Twenty eight turned out to be a really good birthday, a nice change after a string of not-so-good ones. I felt loved and I loved myself for the decisions I made to spend this birthday here. As of Sunday I will enter into my second year in Lesotho and lots of excitement, tribulations and adventure lie ahead. I have a really good feeling about this next year.
Thank you for all the birthday wishes, greetings, messages, calls and thoughts. It means so much to me.