Thursday, January 26, 2017

Childhood and adulthood were not factors of age but states of mind.

This week I celebrated my 21st birthday. Holy cow. Can you believe it? I certainly can't!

Every year I seem to get emotional on my birthday. It's not that I'm sad about growing up, though that may certainly be part of it. I think the emotions are more of a combination of excitement and fear and anxiety and happiness and sadness. That makes total sense, right? You may say that I have no right to feel some of those emotions about turning just 21, but I do! I feel them every single year. There's just something about growing up and leaving another year behind and entering a new year in my life that just gives me butterflies and a pit in my stomach all at the same time. I know, I'm overly-emotional; it's just who I am!

For the most part, though, I'm SO excited to be 21! It's a number that means something. In a way it says "I'm finally an adult," but also, "You're still young and have a lot to learn." And I'm perfectly okay with that combination of sentiments. I do feel myself getting more mature and growing up a little bit, though I've always felt pretty mature—maybe it's my old soul. But I also feel like I have the whole world in front of me. There are so many possibilities ahead! I could take this path or that one or one of these over here or one of those over there. Endless possibilities, each one as amazing and exciting as the next. And it's so comforting to know that no matter which I choose, my life will be full of excitement and experience and learning and love.

And of course I can't write a birthday post this week without mentioning Cal. My little itty-bitty nephew Calvin turns two this week. What's that? He's not so little and itty-bitty anymore? Wow, you are so right. He is sweet and intelligent and hilarious and so fun. He says my name and "please" and "thank you" and sometimes talks in whole actual sentences. This kid amazes me and inspires me and makes me laugh and pulls at my heart every single day, and I can't believe he's already two. I love his bright blonde hair that sometimes looks reddish in the sun. I love when I'm tickling him so hard he can't catch his breath and laughs out, "No, no, Sarah!" I love when we read books and play with tractors and car-cars and eat pizza and drink hot chocolate together. I love him with all of my heart and wish him the happiest birthday. I love you, Cal! There's no one I would rather share a birthday week with. And you'll always be a baby to me!

Something else I love about Calvin is that he reminds me to act like a kid. Trust me, I probably do enough of that on my own, but playing with Calvin is one of my absolute favorite things in the world because it's just so fun. I love trying to see the world the way he does while also watching him learn or try something new. We were all kids once, and I believe we all still are.

This feeling was put perfectly into words for me the other day in one of my classes, Children's British Literature. We were trying to define children's literature and were talking about what it means to be a child versus an adult and what it means to read children's literature as a child versus as an adult. Why do we love children's literature so much as adults? Then my professor recited this poem by William Wordsworth...

   My heart leaps up when I behold
              A rainbow in the sky:
          So was it when my life began;
          So is it now I am a man;
          So be it when I shall grow old,
              Or let me die!
          The Child is father of the Man;
              I could wish my days to be
          Bound each to each by natural piety.

"The Child is the father of the Man." Think about that. The child came first. We are all children before we are adults. Therefore, we are all children forever; childhood lives within us for our entire lives. I thought that line, the whole poem for that matter, was so, so lovely and put it just so perfectly.

So while I may be emotional about my birthday, I'm excited. I'm excited for this year and for the future beyond that. I'm excited to continue celebrating my birthday with friends and family this weekend. I'm excited to keep watching Calvin grow and learn. I'm excited to always be a child and an adult.

How do you celebrate your birthday?

Lots of love,

Alex Shakar, "The Savage Girl"