It is 10:30pm, on the eve on my 32nd birthday. I just stumbled across a photo of myself at 3 years old and was struck by how big and bright my eyes were as a child - thirsty, it seems, for seeing the unseen and knowing the unknowable. In the photo, I am looking up towards an imagined sun, or moon, or shooting star - eyes wide open, ready to soak up the magic, the brilliance, the light, the good. I am so young, so “new," a part of this world, yet tethered to heaven - as ethereal as the rose I hold in my stubby little fingers.This little me has not yet been touched by the precariousness of growing up. She wakes each day with unwavering faith, trusting her mighty imagination, ready for the next great adventure in Cabbage Patch Land. She loves to colour and play dress-up and feed Grandpa's chipmunks. She receives plenty of hugs and Mama-kisses and is as free and as gutsy as she ever will be.
I am overcome with the irrepressible urge to warn this little me - to tell her that life is going to get very rocky at times, to inform her that Cabbage Patch Land won’t last forever. I want to urge her to savour these years of being 3, of being 5, of being 6 years old. I want to build her a suit of armour to protect her from the blows to come. I want to shield her eyes from the ugly, her heart from the cruel, her sensitive soul from the unkind. I want to teach her about betrayal and fear and intense loneliness, so that she may be well-equipped to deal with these monsters lurking in her not-so-distant future. I want to prepare her for the firsts: first love, first loss, first hurt, first moment of inconceivable courage. I want to hold her tight.
I know, even as I write these words, that she does not need me to protect her. She is a smart little girl and she will navigate her way just fine. She may be small, but she is tough, and she possesses that special childhood wisdom that adults spend most of their lives trying to reclaim. She does not need me to guide her at all; in fact, it is I who needs her.
She lives within me, this little one. I feel her everyday. She is that part of me that refuses to be hardened by the harshness of the world. She is that part of me that cries for hurt animals and has whole conversations with trees. She is that part of me that delights in butterflies and trusts strangers and hurries outside to stare at the sky when rainbows make themselves known. She is that part of me that never even thinks about giving up. She is the most tender and the most fierce part of me.
I am blessed to know her, to BE her. When I look at my life - at the choices I’ve made, the people I’ve loved, the relationships I’ve built, the career path I’ve chosen - I am filled up to the brim with gratitude for the little me who lives inside of the bigger me. It is she who has guided my choices, she who has kicked me in the ribs when I have been foolishly naive and on the verge of making a big mistake, she who has whispered soft, sweet truths in my ear, she who has reassured me of the resilience of my spirit when I thought I may have lost it.
The child who lives inside of me - just like the child who lives inside of you - is the wisdom keeper and the overseer. She is the compass that orients us when the territory becomes blurred, the unseen angel that guides us when the hurdles reach new heights, the mastermind behind the dream that lingers in the morning, offering sacred answers to our most burning questions. She is the constant in the inconsistent, the knowing in the belly, the light in the eyes.
When we pause and listen, we can hear them - the little people we once were. They exist underneath all of our acquired layers and adopted roles. They are there, wanting to play and laugh and sing and dance, to revel in the joy that comes simply from being alive.
On this - the eve of my 32nd birthday - I pause, I listen, I say thank you. I give myself a little hug and vow to keep going - to keep riding the waves, braving the storms, boldly facing the difficult moments with grit and grace.
I vow to be kind and just and gentle, to protect the planet through my words and my actions, to fight for the oceans and the glorious beings who inhabit them. I vow to speak up, speak out, speak well. I vow to explore with the curiosity and open-heartedness of a 3 year-old, to leave smiles in my wake, to make this world a little bit shinier than it was when I got here.
I vow to do this not because it is the “right” thing to do, but because I understand what a privilege it is to be here, what a gift it is to breathe in, breathe out, and breathe in again. I understand what a miracle it is to have a heart and a voice.
I vow to do this, more than anything, for the little girl who lives inside of me because she deserves it. She deserves to grow into a woman she is proud to be.
Happy Birthday to us.