First of all, it was SO not a big deal.  I went to work, Dad took me to lunch, I went home to have dinner with my family, and then opened presents.  I went home to my apartment and my roommate said happy birthday before announcing it was time to clean up (which I completely agreed with).  We worked well into my second day as a twenty-five year old dusting, vacuuming, and re-decorating with some things that have been needing to make their way onto the walls and shelves since I moved in in October.  Yep – we’re super fast like that.  But we both went to bed feeling more relaxed than we had since well before the Waldo Canyon Fire mess.

So what did it actually mean to hit a quarter of a century?  Not much.  The day before my birthday found me at my parents’ dinner table with a couple family friends.  We were talking and Dad decided to mention my twenty-fifth birthday was the following day.  One of them said, “That’s the only birthday that hit me.”  The other said, “The one that hit me was twenty-seven.”  I thought about it and came to the conclusion that the birthday that hit me was twenty-two.  Why?  Because I had officially been in treatment longer that I hadn’t.  I had been living with my disease for the greater half of my life.  After that became true, I have been incredibly nonplussed.  It’s a birthday – yay!  It’s a specific birthday – so?

I remember telling a friend years ago that if I wasn’t married/engaged by the time I was twenty-five, I didn’t expect to ever get married.  Thankfully, that’s no longer true.  It was never that I thought that after twenty-five my life would stop or I would become less marriageable .  The reason I thought that was directly due to looking at the statistics and rightly concluding that my chances after twenty-five were lousy in the LDS community.  Those statistics have not gotten any better, in case you were wondering, but I’ve realized that I really didn’t WANT to be married before twenty-five.  In many ways, reaching this age as a single woman has done wonders for me.  I’m happy with myself and with everything I’ve been able to do on my own.  That being said, I expect that it will be harder to get married now than it would have been in the past few years, not because the statistics say so, but because I know me.  I’ve come to love my independence, to love being alone, to love being just me.  Sharing that life that I have so slowly built is a frightening prospect.  The longer I am alone, the more exceptional the man will have to be to convince me to give up the world I have built around myself (and I say that knowing that it will be true in the reverse as well).  I’m not saying that world can’t make room for someone else, but it will take some effort.  I won’t make that effort for just anyone.  (Funny side note: there’s a quote from Brigham Young, a long-dead LDS prophet that says, “A man who is twenty-five and unmarried is a menace to society.”  (Brigham never did mince words.) Now I get to wonder, what does that make me?  Nothing good. 😉 )  That conversation has been on my mind as I approached the day that I had pronounced as the death of my chances to marry so many years ago, but thankfully my attitude changed so long ago that while my mind has frequently returned to the conversation the past couple months, each time I’ve been able to shrug and think, “How silly I was.”

I am getting old, though.  Not in the sense that I am unaware that I am still quite young, but that I’m feeling further and further displaced from what has been, to this point, my community.  I see commercials that are aimed at today’s teens and early twenties and realize, “My goodness, this isn’t meant for me anymore.”  The people I used to be lumped with by surveyists, pollsters, demographic analyzers, and–to be honest–me is no longer the group I’m comfortable in.  I don’t want to be that young anymore, and this did not suddenly happen on my birthday.  I guess being twenty-five just made it official.  I’m growing up and out of the main targeted demographic, and I feel it.  I’ve been feeling it for a while, though, so it’s not quite so disappointing as it is something to learn how to adjust to.  I don’t care that advertising no longer centers around me (I’m actually quite excited about that), but I do care about the disconnect I feel with my younger friends, that disconnect that became much more pronounced over the past year than I expected.

Despite all this, there were some REALLY good moments to end the first twenty-five years and (hopefully) begin the next twenty-five.  And I want to enumerate them:

  1. PHONE CALLS!!!!  Remember this post?  Well, I rejoined the world of Facebook around December to see all the Christmas photos (What?  I have nieces and nephews!  They take precedence over my world-weary views.)  Because of this, I was able to write this note:   “Friends, as some of you may know, my birthday is coming up in less than two weeks.  And I have a request for you that may seem strange, but bear with me, please.  As much as I appreciate all the messages and wall posts that you have given me in the past, I would like something else for my birthday this year.  I don’t want a single post on my wall or hug or a present or whatever this year’s fad is.  I want a phone call.  I want to hear your voice.  It doesn’t have to be a drawn out conversation or even more than a, “Hello, happy birthday!”  No, a text doesn’t count.  Why?  Because YOUR voice is one of the most significant sounds in my world.  I miss it.  I want your voice to remind me of the good times, the bad times, and–more importantly–all the times that have made it possible for me to maintain a connection with you while we’re apart.  Why is this a big deal?  Because you’re my friends.  You make up the best parts of me.  I’m reminded of those parts when I talk to you, even more so when I HEAR you.  E-mails, texts, wall posts – these things are okay for every day but for those most special days of the year, they just don’t cut it.  My phone number is on my profile – simple as that.  So, after you call me (because you will, right?), I have one more favor to ask.  If you could, I’d like you to call someone you haven’t talked to in a long time.  Someone you’ve known for years or someone who you just haven’t had the chance to talk to in too long.  If your voice is that important to me, imagine the significance to someone who’s known you your entire life or who is just learning what it is to miss you.  It may be small, but that’s the gift I want most: the gift of you.Love, always and ever,

    Joie”

    And I got some calls!    Nine of them, but nine good ones!  I got calls from people I hear from on a less than weekly basis, people who I talk to about every other week, friends that I hear from every few months if I’m lucky, some friends from far away, a friend who–until recently–I thought our friendship had been broken irreparably, and one from a friend whose voice I had not heard in a full decade.  This, of course was the WHOLE point of the experiment.  It went better than I expected, though not as well as I had hoped, so we’ll try again next year.  My goal is to eventually get so many phone calls on my birthday that I’ll have to take off work for fielding calls.

  2. Waldo Canyon Fire was 70% contained by the end of the day! My family was displaced for a few days by the fire, and we were lucky.  We have a couple friends whose houses were burned down.  These are houses I have distinct memories in.  It’s hard for me to know they’re no longer there, I cannot imagine their loss.  The campus of my first summer job, the job that introduced me to cowboy culture (which I proceeded to fall in love with and have obviously maintained a romance with in the ensuing years), burned to the ground.  I have so many formative memories at the Flying W Ranch, and it hurts to think that it’s not there.  They’re planning to rebuild, but it won’t quite ever be the same.  With so much loss, having it THAT contained by the end of the day was possibly the best birthday present I could have.  I love my city, and seeing it burn were some of the worst days of my life.  Thank you, firemen, for all you do.
  3. The first proper summer thundershower came along!  That’s right, the summer thundershowers that I so dearly love finally made an appearance.  We waited through all of June for them to come, and I’ll give that we got a few afternoon sprinkles, but nothing like what we’re used to.  Between the fire containment and the rain moving in, I might just have had the most perfect birthday I could ask for.
  4. Lunch with my daddy.  We went to Rock Bottom Brewery, which was amazing as ever.  We had a guacamole appetizer (Mango guac, green apple guac, and Anaheim pepper guac.  Yes, yes, and yes.) and delicious salads.  And we just got to talk.  Perhaps one of the sweetest moments leading up to my birthday was when my dad asked, “Am I going to get to spend any time with you on your birthday?”  I love my father so much and I really treasure the daddy/daughter moments we’ve had over the years.  This one was a great way to start the next twenty-five right.
  5. Birthday dinner.  My mother?  Best cook ever.  There is no such thing as a birthday without the birthday dinner and my mother is the one who makes that dinner perfect.  The asparagus?  FANTASTIC!  The chicken croquettes: delectable.  And the carrot cake: my goodness, let me drown in the amazing.  Perhaps the kindest part was that she let me take home all the left overs of the meal!  I even got to cut out the center of the cake so I didn’t have to deal with any of the edges . . . meaning I left my family with a C-block of edged cake.  I was spoiled and would say sorry except that I am not.  At all.
  6. The thoughtful presents.  My family is super amazing and sweet.  I always send a huge list and let them choose what they will to give me.  I try to including things that I know my siblings and parents would like to give.  I even remember a year when I asked for a video game as much for the joy I knew it would give my brothers to give it to me as the pleasure I would receive from the gift.  That was a good year.  This year was no different.  I was unsurprised by the gifts everyone gave me, knowing my family as I do, but at the same time touched.  My parents gave me some much needed clothes that will last me for years to come.  My baby brother gave me a book from a series that he introduced me to many years ago.  In addition, he got me the first two books of a series I gave him when he was little and used to read aloud to him.  I expected to get books from him, but the ones he chose from the long list were especially meaningful.  Then, we all played a game, which is a rare occurrence.  That was probably the gift I loved the most, as my chronically ill sister made the effort to stick out the entire evening.  I know she couldn’t have been comfortable.  (Also, I didn’t have to do dishes.  That’s very nice.)
  7. Realizing that I’m twenty-five.  I can tell you there were days I really didn’t think I would make it to this age.  And I did, not with a band or by a hair, but quietly and peacefully.  A true gift.
  8. I had a quiet birthday.  No big fanfare, no fuss.  Just a few calls, a dinner and game with the family, and some presents.  I’ve been trying to do this kind of quiet birthday for years, and this is the first year I think I got the balance just right.  It was wonderful.

So, after wondering for years how I would feel to be twenty-five, I know.  And it’s a good feeling, if a little less than describable.  I think it’s going to be a stunning year.

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