I love my birthday. I’m not going to pretend that I don’t. Not just because it’s a day that gets to be all about me (which is, admittedly, nice to have once a year), but because December 13th is a damn good day. It’s right smack dab in the middle of the Christmas (Advent) season, leaving it far enough from the 25th to not get muddled into the holiday, but close enough to reap the benefits of ornamented trees and lighted sidewalks. It’s during winter, which, with its coats, gloves, scarves, and boots, blows summer out of the water any day. It’s the feast of St. Lucy, my confirmation saint (and the name of one of my future daughters I swear.)

But one of the things I like most about my birthday is that it begins, for me, that end-of-the-year-nostalgia syndrome that comes regardless of how distracted I seem to have been beforehand. December is a month of looking back. It’s not necessarily about making new resolutions yet; it’s about seeing which ones you’ve already checked off your list, and which ones you didn’t even know were on your list in the first place. It’s about remembering that despite the fact that you had a crazy year with ups and downs and twists and turns, you made it through and you’re still surrounded by people you love and who love you. It’s about remembering the reasons why we put up with the crap stuff in the first place, like family and friends and the kindness of strangers.

When I was little, 23 years old meant being married with a job and 3 kids already because heck, that was just plain old. It’s not quite that old, but it does mean certain things. It means definitively past “college age” and old enough to do just about anything except rent a car in some areas. It means living in a different state as my family for the first time in my life and only giving in to go home twice before I had actually planned to. It means being in my first long-distance relationship and not backing out because of how scary or daunting that may seem. It means more crying and more laughing and more growing. It means many things. It means good things.

There is a quote from the book Tuesdays with Morrie. It’s about how people always say that they wish they were young again, but no one ever wishes to be old. No one ever wishes to be 65. “You know what that reflects?” the book says. “Unsatisfied lives. Unfulfilled lives. Lives that haven’t found meaning. Because if you’ve found meaning in your life, you don’t want to go back. You want to go forward. You want to see more, do more. You can’t wait until sixty-five.”

I’m not wishing to be 65 right now, but I’m certainly not longing for days that have passed. I think maybe having a satisfied and fulfilled life isn’t about moving backwards or forwards. It’s about wanting to be right where you are because you’ve found happiness there, and that’s how I feel these days. I’m blessed by all the things that have brought me to where I am, and I’m excited to see what’s in store for my future, but mostly I’m just happy, content, and satisfied.

Happy 23 to me.

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