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Each year, I happily ring in my birthday with loved ones. But sometimes, during moments of quiet and lull, my born day is met with unwanted reflection.  I use the word unwanted because this so-called reflection is awfully one-sided and offers up no action-based solutions.  Instead, it presents hefty slices of missed and failed opportunities rolled up in a sad “this is your life” type of montage that’s meant for my eyes only.  It relies heavily on shaming, finger-pointing and diabetic-inducing amounts of cake.  And ice cream.  And gum.  All things sugar.  Worse yet, it thrives on comparison and convinces me that I’m not quite the adult I thought I was. I haven’t realized certain age-appropriate feats like being married, having a child, owning a home, and being at a bawse level in my career, à la Beyoncé.  Never mind whether or not I actually want or am ready for any of those things. It’s the expectation of it all that commands the attention of my thoughts, especially when the “Happy Birthday” song rolls along.  But now that my birthday is around the corner, I am making a conscious effort not to feel that way this year.

I’m starting by believing – no, accepting – that perhaps I am exactly where I need to be.  Where I’m supposed to be.  One of my beloved and very spiritual friends often says that everything happens in divine time.  Obviously, she did not create this concept, but hearing it from the mouth of a woman I admire and respect and who welcomes all of life’s challenges is all the more motivating.  It’s a rather freeing concept that alleviates unnecessary stress and promotes positivity, as opposed to harping on the laundry list of all that I have yet to accomplish.   If I give into that list, my birthday can quickly turn from a celebration to a so long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, good night party.  Minus the singing.  It’s as if my free time has suddenly run out, and I’m being sent to prison, or worse, the following day.  But I strongly believe that birthdays are not meant to be last hurrahs.  They are testaments to resiliency and survival and are quintessential “living in the moment” moments.

Just like the physical vision board I create at the beginning of every year, my birthday is an opportunity to create a mental vision board. Through it, I remind myself of all that I have witnessed, felt, experienced and lived through the last 365 days to see yet another birthday.  Good and bad, planned and unplanned.   And if the bad tries to outshine the good, this mental vision board takes things a step further than simply proclaiming “this awful thing happened to me.”  Take losing my 9-to-5 job, for instance.  Though I wanted to move on and clearly needed a push in that direction, being let go was still a disruption, financially and mentally, that had a lasting impact.  But instead of simply reminding myself of that extremely awkward and less than thrilling experience, I can focus on how I overcame it.  Not to mention, I can acknowledge the freedom I’ve since gained, which has allowed me to put my priorities in check and go about the business of creating the life I truly want.  Now, if that ain’t a birthday gift, I don’t know what is.

So when I hear Stevie sing, “Happy Birthday to ya” in a few weeks, I’ll be reminding myself of how far I’ve come instead of belaboring how far I have yet to go.  I’ll gladly take in all the born-day love from my friends and family (and the cake), instead of succumbing to the picture of a life that I have been told I should want.  Here’s to another fabulous year and to knowing that I am exactly where I was meant to be.

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