Today is my 18th birthday. I can’t say I feel much older or any more grown up than yesterday. Yet here is the thing about having a birthday. It makes you re-evaluate yourself on the most basic level and contemplate the way you exist. Well, maybe not for a 5-year-old, but certainly for my now-18-year-old-self. I've been looking forward to this number for a long time.
The age old question of how old someone is has always seemed to be a driving force in how we judge someone. If they are young, they have an excuse; if they are old, they do not. If they are young, they are marvellous for doing something with their life. If they are old, they are expected to have already done something with their life. If someone is old, they are wise, and if someone is young, they have much to learn.
There are so many different connotations that go along with asking someone’s age, and a lot of it has to do with different ways that we ourselves perceive age. What someone should have done or not done by a certain age is only fact in our minds because of the life we have lived. But everyone is different.
So no matter how old you were when you discovered your passion, or if you haven’t discovered it yet, that is of no consequence. What matters is how passionately you go after your dreams and how much you believe in yourself, age aside. Because whether you are very young or very old, or somewhere in between, like me, you have every right to chase your desires. The only time age is an issue is when we make it one.
So, today I have a birthday. And I happen to adore birthdays. Not so much the celebrating of them with a party and a cake (though I do love cake…) but more the idea that life moves forward and with each passing moment I learn something new about it. I love celebrating life and how wonderful it is to be here. I am so grateful for it.
The question of age comes up very often for me. When I am guest writing or speaking somewhere, one thing that everyone seems to want to put in the introduction is how old I am. I’m not sure why there is a preoccupation with age, but to me, it is irrelevant. We are as old as our imaginations.
Numbers mean so little. So while I could sit here and tell you that I am now 18 years old, it doesn’t mean anything. What matters more is impossible to put into words, let alone numbers. What matters is how we embrace who we are, our imaginations, and our dreams. Old or young, everyone deserves that much.
I love birthdays because of how reflective they make us. We think about our lives in terms of years, and we often find a way to define a certain year of our lives. For example, when I think of being 11, I think of it as a huge, life-changing age. I started high school and made lifelong friendships. Big year! When I think of 16, I think of how I started this very blog and look at how it's grown. When I think of 17, I think about how I successfully went after my India dreams, even when people weren't always forthcoming with support.
But aside from reflecting on the things we’ve done, birthdays are a chance to start anew. It is a chance to evaluate if you really are the person you want to be, or if you need to change something. For me, there is always something to change. The only question is what I am going to change. I spent the last year of my life changing course. I stopped doing a lot of the things I had done before – online and personal – and laid the foundation for a new life. This year, I am living it. Year 18 will be one of discovering my dreams. Dreaming bigger. Dreaming in my own way. Letting dreams define me.
I emailed someone the other day about a big project I’m working on. His response was “This is an absolutely crazy idea”. And that made my heart soar with joy. “Yes,” I thought, “that is the kind of life I want to live.”
|my closest friends|
Getting older means learning lessons. It means failing miserably. It means succeeding wildly. It means changing perspective on life. And this is what it has meant to me:
1. Failing is winning for those willing to try hard.
2. Life cannot be quantified in years. If I died right now, I will have lived the best life possible. This I can say with absolute confidence and love.
3. I would rather be crazy than boring. After all, I am the only one I can count on to entertain myself.
4. Not everything will work out, because if it did, we wouldn’t appreciate the magical days.
5. There is never an excuse for boredom.
6. Being present in all that you do means you will never feel like life has passed you by.
7. Being genuine will get you farther than attempting to please people.
8. When you refuse to compromise your beliefs, you attract like-minded people into your life.
9. If you treat failure like an old friend, he will always be there to help you back up when he knocks you down.
10. Your kindness towards others should never be dependent on someone else’s actions towards you.
11. Fears are friends wearing masks. Always get close enough to see the face of fear.
12. Give your love without need for reciprocation. Receive love like you deserve it.
13. The words “best” and “worst” should never be used to describe someone. We will only look foolish when we are proved wrong.
14. Tell someone why you love them all the time you think it.
15. Live your life to make someone else’s life better.
16. Look forward to each day you grow older, because the alternative is death.
17. If you build a community, take care of that community.
18. Dream as though it will happen.
What I have learnt this past year can be summed up in these words: Love wholly. Give repeatedly. Create selfishly. Challenge yourself regularly. Live beautifully.
Good morning, 18.