My 20th birthday arrived this week. It was a surprise, as always. I have not been very tied to that yearly marker for many years, which amuses most people. When I forget my birthday, people chuckle with disbelief, and two weeks ago when a cashier checked my license and wished me an early one, my look of genuine confusion made her smile. Usually I say that I enjoy this, as it means any gifts or cards are wonderfully unexpected, but this year was different. I have felt a sense of anxiety at recent birthdays, but after leaving that cashier’s desk, I felt panic. This is not new for young people, and I am aware that it is cliché. While this is true, my onset into uncertainty next year after graduation comes shortly after an enormous professional success for my father that has brought many changes to my immediate family’s life.
That change led my family to move from my childhood home to a place twelve hours away. For me, this home was one of the few places where I felt comfortable and its loss was deeply unsettling. As someone who suffers from significant anxiety, these places are few, and after the last two years of being away from them for long periods, losing that physical anchor felt devastating. This, despite my deepest wish to be only happy at my family’s success, was deeply frustrating. That sense of being placeless, I was assured, would subside when the new place was available, and to some extent this is true. What I did not realize is that the experience was only one manifestation of what I realized just prior to this recent birthday.
I was met with a long list of similar uprootings set to take place one after another. From graduation to seeking a career in a tricky field, there are bound to be so many losses of the familiar without any guarantee of future comfort like that of a new apartment for my family. We do not even know who will be running this country’s executive branch in the near future (not to mention our uncertainty on that point now), and what they might do to individual liberties and opportunities for myself, but especially for those less privileged. I am lucky to have support and many resources with which to address these looming uncertainties and fight them through education and activism, but those do not fare particularly well fighting opposite the intangible obstacles that come from within.
I recognize that the only path is acceptance, and I am choosing to believe that I am accepting uncertainty, but more importantly, possibility. There is a thin line between fear and excitement, and my plan for the future is to veer toward the latter, like looking ahead fifty feet on the road to avoid a crash. Look how it turned out for my dad—Hint: it’s pretty great. My parents have always been role models for me in their relationship, their character, and their conduct, but I forgot that in the onslaught of change that began last fall. When I turn in on myself and doubts therein, I will force myself to look back out and at them. My dad does what he wanted to do, and he is happy. His work and those qualities I always admired and hoped I inherited were rewarded. Though he doesn’t need it, I am so proud of him. When that welled up in me, it was yet another surprise, as it always seemed like pride belonged to those who shaped a person, not the other way around. I want to give that same feeling to both of my parents. I’m aiming for that, and I think I’ll enjoy it more than the cards that will appear in years to come, seemingly out of nowhere.