I turned 28 today. I’ll admit, there were times I didn’t think that would happen. But here I am: alive and ancient. (And don’t you senior citizens start harping on me… you probably felt old at 28 too. I actually have wrinkles now.)
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how I present my life to the outside world. Through brief intervals of honesty, I have sculpted a narrative that is just vulnerable enough to be respected, and just glossed-over enough to be enviable.
World traveler. Teacher. Adventurer. Hiker. Writer. Crafter. Musician.
Truths about myself, yes, but only half-truths. They paint a picture of me that is precisely as imperfect as it should be and not less. Social media has helped mold an ideal version of myself to show the world. I’m more concerned about what people will think of my photos than I am about the experiences happening behind those photos.
The truth is, 27 was hard. So were many of the 26 years before it. 28 is probably going to be hard too. In the last year, I overcame a lot. I went from taking daily doses of Ativan and alcohol just to get through the day to thriving without any medication at all. I got fired from my job. I started a writing career instead. I joined a band and learned to create music with a team. I abandoned my community in Thailand for yet another start somewhere else. And when I did, the stability I had built in my life suddenly fell apart. I reverted back to requiring medication, and found that even that was not enough. I quit drinking. I quit dating. I started seeking a more stable life, no matter how hard that sometimes seems to attain.
There are times when the discouraging reality of my life seems too difficult to bear. The struggles I face are relentless and returning, year after year.
But the beautiful thing I have come to see is that as often as my difficulties come back to me, so does my strength.
I’m 28. I made it another year. I have not been overcome. And I dare say I never will be. Because the one thing I have in ample supply is the most valuable weapon in my battle against mental illness. And that is friendship.
Cheesy? Maybe. But that’s the truth. So many days I wake up with the drowning weight of depression, anxiety, and physical ailments threatening to crush me. And each time, I defeat them. And I do it because I am not alone in this world. Because life can be scary and hard and relentless, but not as relentless as the love shown to me every day by people who understand these human struggles just as well. People whose kindness can drown out even the worst fears.
A sister who supports me without question. A brother who makes me laugh. Parents who would do anything for me. And the vast array of friends who bring such astounding beauty into my life, even during times when I cannot find it myself.
Last year on my birthday I wrote about having depression for the first time. Unsurprisingly, I still have it. But that’s ok. My life is no less amazing because of it. It’s just a little bit harder.
I think my word for this year is “resilient.” The power of bouncing back. I am beyond grateful for the people in my life who have reminded me that laughter and tears go hand in hand, that just because one exists, that doesn’t mean the other can’t. That life is a constant mix of really hard and really great, and it is always, consistently, worth it. No matter the struggles, we remain strong.
So here’s to 28. And here’s to being a resilient badass for another year. Here’s to embracing the beauty despite the pain, and to caring a lot less about appearances and a lot more about vulnerability. Here’s to new homes and fresh starts and the hope of stability. Here’s to resiliency.