As my birthday month comes to a close, I’m faced with the inevitable existential questions one asks as they inch a year closer to death: am I where I thought I would be? Did I have enough fun in my youth? Am I still in my youth? What’s missing from my life? Should I get bangs again?
Like the No Name cherry Popsicle that is generously dripping onto my dress as I type this, the past year has been a perfect blend of both sweet and sour, may leave a couple of stains, has gone by way too quickly but has been overall pretty satisfying. I am wiser as well as humbled. I have gained insight as well as eyebrows. (More on that later).
As a testament to my learning, here are a few quick lessons/highlights/memorable moments of my just-shy-of-quarter-life year on earth. I hope they inspire you to do some similar celebrating, reflecting on, and laughing at the beautiful and perfect mess that is your existence! You’ve earned it, I know it.
EYEBROWS = POWER
I have an aunt who lives very well. She’s worked her butt off to get where she is and is better than anyone I know at celebrating it. One of the ways she celebrates herself and her success is a monthly visit to an upscale Rosedale spa where she has her eyebrows tinted and threaded. Then she orders a gourmet pizza and a glass of white wine at the French café next door. For my 23rd Birthday, I was honoured to be invited to participate in this ritual. Though my eyes leaked unapologetically throughout the procedure, I was overcome with admiration as I looked at the shockingly beautiful, authoritative, Cara Delivingne-esque creature staring back at me in the mirror. Then I looked at myself, the puffy-eyed client in desperate need of more makeup sitting in the chair below the beautiful, authoritative, Cara Delevingne-esque creature who had performed the procedure, and was admittedly a little freaked out at first. Because there I was. With eyebrows.
Here’s the deal: I wasn’t born with eyebrows. As a straight-up ginger, my eyebrows have always been a silent and invisible white-blonde. Sometimes I wonder if this lack of facial authority contributes to why I’m not a very aggressive person, or why some people don’t seem to take me very seriously. Either way, eyebrows weren’t really a thing I did until that fateful day in Rosedale.
After I got used to it, I was kind of obsessed with it. It ignited this fierceness in me I didn’t know I had. My parents hated it as they were pretty happy with the way I looked before I started doing it. My friends didn’t really notice it until I pointed it out and then they were very supportive. It may be superficial, but it’s become that little confidence boost that allows me to channel the fiery alter ego that emerges when I’m singing karaoke. It’s an alter ego I like to call Sassy Pantz. I draw on her rock star/diva energy as often as I can but sometimes she needs a little push. If a monthly superficial confidence boost can get Sassy Pantz just a little further out of her cage, then I see nothing wrong with that.
Get a better can opener and slow down a bit
If you read my last blog post, you’ll know that I once ran out of a yoga class in a flurry of hot tears. The meltdown was the result of a visit from my old pal burnout. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of work to keep burnout at bay, as it is never welcome, but on this particular occasion, I ignored burnout until it reared its ugly head mid-plank pose. I went home after yoga and spent the day in bed, realizing that in bed was exactly where I should have stayed that morning. I got out only once to make the only meal I had it in me to make: mushroom soup surprise. You mix a can of mushroom soup, a can of tuna, a can of peas and you eat it on pasta. It’s brilliant. However this time the “surprise” was that when my can opener did a poor job of opening the can of peas, I intelligently decided I would take over and shove my thumb into the can to pry the lid open. Surprise!!! My thumb got stuck. It was a messy yet unserious injury and I was required to wear a humiliating, giant wad of gauze on my thumb for ten days. But it was strangely symbolic too. I was physically prevented from giving a thumbs up which forced me to be honest about how I was really feeling: pretty thumbs down. The body and its teachings never cease to amaze me. And I got a new can opener for Christmas.
Fall in love with a funeral director and then obviously check the obituaries when he doesn’t text you back
This isn’t so much a lesson as just a sad thing I did. He seemed perfect. He had a real job. He was supportive to others. And he was weirdly really good at applying make-up. It took me about a week to fall for him even despite the fact that when I’d ask him how his day went he’d share something like “I got excrement-ed on today!” because apparently that’s a thing that dead people do. When I didn’t hear from him I just assumed he had ended up like one of his unfortunate clients. So I looked for him in a “[his name] + obituaries” Google search. My friends and I would joke that it begged the question: who buries the funeral director? An Instagram post later confirmed that he was indeed still alive and I reluctantly downloaded Tinder again.
When in doubt, meet your best friend in Sweden and write a country song together about leaving it all behind
In the early spring of this year, I was once again visited by my old pal burnout. Or perhaps it just never left. I had a bad cold for over a month and my energy, emotions, and general zest for everything was totally out of whack. I prayed that I’d be healthy in time for the June Scandinavia trip I had been saving up for for over a year. I would be meeting my best friend in Sweden – a destination we had been dreaming of since high school. We had rented a cottage with another friend in the Swedish archipelagos and were all in dire need of a break. I felt better the second I got off the plane. On our second day at the cottage, mid-skinny dip, my best friend and I began belting out made-up songs about, naturally, two girls swimming naked in the Swedish archipelagos. This activity was undoubtedly inspired by our recent trip to the museum honouring Sweden’s primary pride and joy – Abba. What started as a game of sorts turned into an obsessive creative pursuit as we realized we had somehow come up with a concept for a really catchy country song about leaving “a coffee-fueled life” for a life in a “seaside town.” We left any concern for being cheesy behind and poured every truth we had ever learned into a twangy country ballad that I’m convinced would make a killer Stevie Nicks/Dolly Parton duet. The form of your creative outlet may surprise you, but I’m confident it will never disappoint you.
Don’t feel guilty about the fact that you’re having a really good time
Since coming back from my trip, I’ve been having a really good time. Correction: I’ve been letting myself have a really good time and I’m not feeling bad about it. From celebrating my birthday with pretty clumsy late-night fence climb and dip in the Christie Pit’s pool, to dancing and sun-burning in the blazing heat at Way Home, it’s been a fantastic, guilt-free summer so far. I’m staying aware of when I’m pushing myself too hard and taking action when burnout is close by. And yeah, maybe I’m slacking off a bit at the moment, but I have years of pushing myself in an often unhealthy way to merit temporarily loosening the reins.
So that was 23. It was full, fun, weird at times and over too quickly. I’ll save the questions I opened with for a rainy day (especially that last one – which forever has me stumped!), but what I can say is that I’m really, really happy with where I am right now. There’s no question about that.
I embrace 24 with a bit of hesitancy, very aware of the fact that I’m creeping into “mid-twenties” territory. I’m still absolutely terrified of 25 – an age ridden with expectations I set a long time ago that I should probably revisit. But I’ve got some time for that.
P.S. I could have probably spent a bit more time on this post – but I’m off on a trip to a cottage. And I don’t feel bad about it!