There’s nothing like a September 11 birthday to make you really take stock in your life.
I’ve gone through this interesting period over the last decade or so, from ignoring my birthday, to reclaiming my birthday, to gentle celebrations with small groups of people I love. But this year seems different.
When people have asked me this year how I’m spending “my day” I haven’t had much of an answer. Honestly, I’ve been thinking more about how I’m spending my life.
Funny, I don’t feel old until I look back and photos like these and and think…wait, that was how many years ago?
Me with great friends around my birthday circa 1985. Thanks for the memories, Ben.
Thanks for the braces Dr. Whats-His-Name.
Me with great friend Isabel Kallman around my birthday, 2012.
Thanks for the hair straightening products, beauty industry.
Maybe it’s about it’s hitting that ripe midlife (eep) age of 44, but the days now seem to matter as much as the years do. They go faster, but each one also has the potential to be more meaningful in ways. Looking back at my older posts, I think it’s something I started to feel back in 2010.
Recently, I was struck and moved by my stepmother’s observation that the older she gets, the more she realizes “this is the only life we get.” And that one day, we’ll have to look back and say to ourselves, well, this is how I spent it.
That means there are some changes that I need to make this year; I want to make sure I can answer that question well.
One of those changes is to recommit a bit more to the world outside my proverbial backyard, especially in ways that my children can see.
The shot@life campaign was an amazing first step–I was amazed at how totally committed I felt and how personally I took on the mission to help generate comments for all the blogs that participated. There was hardly a day that passed that I didn’t tweet about a post or email friends to comment; seeing the very tangible effect of one’s words is a powerful thing.
We saved 10,000 lives. With words. You saved 10,000 lives. Pause on that for a minute.
Last week I wrote about living in bubbles, and how easy it is to forget our impact on the other people in the world; and the impact the other people in world can have on us. Suebob Davis (one of the most non-bubble people I know) wrote ” It is easy to forget that everything we do – from how we walk and drive and hold doors (or don’t) and speak to cashiers and random strangers – all of it – creates the world in which we live.”
There was also some discussion about the internet creating its own kind of bubble and keeping us from participating in the world. While there’s some truth to it, I don’t agree that it can’t also be a door outside as well. More than watching a show on TV. More than reading a book. My online community has connected me to the world in many ways.
And here’s where I tell you that as I type this these words, my arms are still sore from the immunization shots I received 5 days ago.
I’m going to Ethiopia.
I’m going to Ethiopia!
A week with Jeannine Harvey and the ONE Moms to Addis Ababa and its environs. A week with some of the women I love and respect and admire most in the world–and many I don’t know but can’t wait to know. A week to bear witness to the stories of the mothers and children there, and to see firsthand the essential benefits of now dwindling U.S. aid to Africa. Like Asha Dornfest confessed on the ONE Moms blog, I know much less than I should about the region.
But this time next month, we’ll be there.
Oddly enough, today also happens to be the Ethiopian New Year, or Enkutatas. They say there are no coincidences in life, huh?
I’ve explained to my children that while it’s hard to leave them, they know I’ll be helping kids, the same way they like to help kids. I hope they’re proud of me. I hope they internalize it and grow to be people who have these kinds of opportunities too. Or heck, make their own.
I hope they know how much I need this right now.
It’s now been 11 years since I was on the ground in Sarajevo working with refugees from the Bosnian war–not as a poverty tourist (a term that makes me want to vomit) but as a writer and a storyteller, as a future mother, and as a citizen of the world. It shaped my life and my worldview in ways I have yet begun to articulate.
11 years is a long time though, and while I’ve done so much in those years, I’m feeling a stronger pull than ever to reconnect with that aspect of myself, to bear witness, to share someone’s story besides my own, to give voice to those who don’t always have one.
I’m thinking it’s an excellent way to describe how I spent my 44th year.
And that’s where you come in. I hope you’ll join me for the journey, if only through my blog.
This morning, my mother shared the advice, Look in the mirror every morning and ask yourself, “Am I the best person I can be today?” If the answer is YES, get on with your life.
The answer won’t always be yes. But you know? Let’s get on with it.