The morning I turned 21, I woke up wondering if this long-awaited year of life had transformed me.
Had I suddenly become the most beautiful woman in the world? Had it taught me the meaning of the cosmos? Had I become a more social person? These were the answers that I hoped would be “yes.”
But that year, like every year on my birthday, I woke up and I realized I was, mostly, the same.
That year, maybe in hopes of feeling like the most beautiful women in the world – my friends and I would spend our weekends applying heavy makeup, shimmying into tight dresses, gyrating around, and laughing about the advances we’d rejected on our nights out for days afterwards.
Last week, I lived out my long-awaited last day of work. Finally. If you are one of the dear ones who reads my blog regularly, you know I’ve been obsessed with quitting my job for over a year.
“Do you feel euphoric?” asked my friend on Friday, after this long-awaited last day of work was done.
“Fatigued,” I said.
And – while relieved and free and exhausted – I realized that I was, mostly, the same.
After a long-awaited achievement or devastating failure, I look around and expect fireworks. I expect an anvil to drop. I expect a pegasus to carry me away on its back.
But always, instead, I am just me. The change inside me never manifests in the outside world like I think it will.
(On the morning after his election to office, news articles reported that President Obama woke up and went to the gym for a workout. Did he also feel, mostly, the same?)
So on this long-awaited last day, after packing up my stuff at my job, I drove home from work for the last time. I’d driven this path home hundreds of times, always with excitement; this time, I drove home with sadness and some regrets. No fireworks. No anvil. No pegasus. Just me and the highway.
When I got home, I thought about making a sandwich. I found some fruit instead. I ate it while standing up in my kitchen. I fell asleep early. And on Saturday, I woke up in the morning as usual, laundry surrounding my bed and my curtains halfway open.
That night, I went dancing.
Saturday night, I walked into a club filled with shiny-haired women in crop tops and men smelling of cologne, while wearing an old sundress. My friends and I gathered on the floor, threw back cups of water, and danced in a circle. No one told me how good I looked. No one asked for my phone number. No handsome strangers tried to wrap their arms around my waist. But too busy laughing over the various brands of comfy sneakers we’d all chosen to wear that night, I didn’t miss any of it at all.
And if there was one highlight of the night, it would be that I waved my arms like an air traffic controller and nobody glanced around self-consciously, not even once, not even me. Even when I did it for a really long time.
“I feel great!” my friend exclaimed at the end of the night as we danced out of the club almost 3 hours later.
And there were no fireworks, no anvils, and no pegasus — just us bouncing back to the car in our tennis shoes, and my small realization that — I felt great, too.
Smiling, I recalled the countless nights at 21 years of age that I’d limped back home, carrying the pair of sexy high heels shoes that inevitably caused my early departures on nights like these.
This time, it was just me and the road in front of me.
Maybe, in the big moments in life, I am supposed to simply notice the small journeys:
The small journeys back to the car. The small journeys alone and with friends. The small journeys that remind me I am always going back home.
PS: The She-Ra photo is from the cover of the original Golden comic book “Princess of Power.” I used to love She-Ra.