On My Fourth Birthday

On New Year’s Eve, I will turn four… if life really does begin at forty that is. It doesn’t seem possible, I was 18 only yesterday. What an odd existence!

I know what you’re thinking – so… what have you learned in that time?

Weirdly, my life has actually taken a dramatic turn in the last four years. Four years ago I was celebrating at a surprise 40th birthday party – my first surprise party ever, organized by my dear friend from work. We were teaching English at a local high school together. From then until now – there were two deaths in my family and three near-deaths, I got very sick and was diagnosed with celiac disease, my work friend left the job after an accident leaving me without my AP teaching partner, I took over for her as play director and senior advisor, was hit by a drunk driver leaving me unable to return to work or life as I had known it, and dealt with the fallout from everything that resulted from each of those experiences and many, many more.

I suppose the most important lessons I learned are that life is short, that the best-laid plans can go awry in a moment, that family (blood or chosen) is everything – so take nothing for granted, that recovery is hard, that you are more than your profession, that security is more than the sum total of your bank accounts, that God works even when you don’t see it, that you must appreciate the little things, that slow progress is still progress, that mental health is health, that asking for help doesn’t mean that you’re weak and that sometimes you need to give yourself a break.

I probably should have already learned all of these lessons, and in truth, some of them I kind of knew already, but I learned them in a very intimate way in the past four years. My entire family was affected – everyone suffered – and everyone has grown. In some ways, I feel so much older – in others, I feel so young and inexperienced. Starting over can be a blessing, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. I looked forward to turning forty – it was the prospect of a fresh start – an older and wiser start – an opportunity to marry experience and a relatively youthful existence. Although I was prepared to learn new things, for new and exciting experiences – I wasn’t expecting to have my life turned upside down and to reinvent myself. I wasn’t expecting to have to reimagine who I was or forge a new identity that aligned with who I now was. But that is where I am.

Four years seems like a lifetime ago.

Yet, this new life has its benefits. These struggles have made it very easy to assess what matters most, who and what to value, and which things cost too much. My life has been streamlined out of necessity – no time for nonsense, no energy for drama, no desire for distractions from the people I love.

As I forge ahead into my fifth year, I can’t help but be thankful that I have been blessed with the chance to start again, to struggle and strive, to love and laugh and learn to be the new me.

Happy New Year! May this year bring beautiful new beginnings, bright prospects, delightful destinations, precious relationships, and compelling dreams.

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19


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