Celebrating Life

Today marks half a century for me of being alive. There’s no way to describe the avalanche of emotions that are churning inside me. I’ve watched as many folks I loved pass way before they should have. I remember friends like Alex who will never get to reach his fortieth birthday while others celebrate their birthdays, including myself. Even though I don’t really feel older, my joints do. My body screams with statements that remind me that age may be a state of mind, but the joints have their own calendar system that often don’t coincide with my thought processes.

I’ve been watching folks deal with this virus. Celebrations are being held differently or being postponed. We all are adjusting to a new normal and in the meantime want so badly to get back to our normal routines. One of the silver linings that I’ve witnessed is that we have changed our perceptions about how we approach our lives. Many of you know that I’m actively involved with Empowered Girls of NC. Every day one of the young girls who are able to reach their potential is a day worth celebrating. The confidence these girls exude is inspiring and heart wrenching. They know what it’s like to be told they aren’t good enough and consistently prove others wrong. A lot has changed in fifty years.

When I went to school in the 70’s and 80’s, girls were just beginning to get the support they needed to achieve their dreams. I remember that most of the boys in the class were the overachievers while there were a few girls who excelled but not many. The status quo was pretty much expected. My folks used to tell me that I could do anything that I set my mind to. The question then became, “What do I want?”

Here’s what I’ve learned about myself over these last few years. I truly love being around people. I feel fulfilled by being able to share stories and skill-sets with various ethnicity, groups, and being able to engage in multiple opportunities with friends and family. I’m embracing change. I don’t feel like I know everything. That’s the beauty of growth. We as people are constantly evolving and learning. Every day and every second provides the opportunity to learn something new.

When I think about the last fifty years, I’m amazed at the huge milestones that I’ve seen. I remember being a kid in my algebra class with Mrs. Barnes when the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up. I’ve lived through cordless phones, cell phones, computers being accessible by the masses, major technological advances, changes in the workplace, recession, the life and death of several popes, the awareness of the AIDS epidemic, and other diseases that previously had never been experienced. I’ve seen advances with medicine, robotics, AI, and a change in people’s attitudes. Morals and values appear to have greatly diminished over the last half of the century, at least in what I’ve encountered. But through everything, people are still at the core of it all. People may have grown together and faced many of the changes together but it takes people to create the changes. Without people, our society can’t continue to grow. While it may sound like a simple concept, I think over time, we have forgotten how to treat each other.

Even though I can’t celebrate with friends and family today, I can be grateful for the love that I’ve gotten through messages, phone calls and texts. My heart has an emptiness for those who I’ve lost along the way and is filled with other thoughts of people who are doing amazing things to help their neighbors and people they have never met.

I remember hearing something from a former family member that said, “I came in this world on a horse and buggy and I’m leaving on a space shuttle.” Wow, what a sentiment. I don’t plan on going anywhere but I hope that when my time comes, that my life is as big as the universe. A life that has been full of wonder, questions, answers, and most importantly, a love that knows no limits. The universe doesn’t have walls. Let’s all celebrate life with the mentality that we should never restrict our growth. The universe doesn’t restrict space, we shouldn’t restrict our lives in fear.

Celebrate each day in any way that you can. There are so many people who can’t anymore. You still are here. You are able to make a difference. Birthdays, wedding anniversaries, baby announcements, life’s milestones should all be celebrated. So today I raise a glass to everyone who has made it to see another day. Keep changing the world for the better and most importantly, love unconditionally. You never know what influences you may have on others.

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