For the first time in my life I am dreading my birthday.
I don't know if this is the result or the cause of the way I've been feeling lately: both overwhelmed by the suffocating minutiae of grown up life, the laundry to fold and play doh to scrape from the carpet, the groceries to buy and children to scold, and underwhelmed by the payoff, more laundry, play doh, groceries and stern talkings-to.
In an effort to avoid one of these gray moods, I decided not to think about the birthday coming tomorrow. Instead, I've been thinking about the birthday I had twenty years ago when I turned 16 and realized for the first time that I wouldn't be a kid forever. . .a notion which, back then, filled me with hopeful optimism.
I got two things on my sixteenth birthday: my learner's permit and a black leather motorcycle jacket. It didn't matter that in the six months that I drove on the permit I burnt through the clutches on both of my parents' cars, nor that I killed any potential coolness of the jacket by wearing it with french-cuffed Z. Cavariccis and shoe boots; the gifts I got for my sixteenth birthday were the tender shoots of the grown up life I was sure was just waiting to blossom for me. The permit promised freedom and the jacket, easily the edgiest piece of clothing I'd ever owned, hinted at adventure and excitement.
Twenty years later, I have no idea where my learner's permit or the bright shining freedom it represented ended up. The jacket, though, is still with me. Through several moves and countless closet purges I've kept it regardless of how poorly it would fit me or how foolish I would look in it should I try to wear it. I keep it because I loved it back then and because I still love the unknown possibilities it symbolized, even though grown up life has yet to present me with an occasion that demands black leather with wrist zippers.
I'm still not thrilled about what's coming tomorrow, but I'm trying to reframe it. I'll look at it as the twentieth anniversary of my sixteenth birthday, and hopefully I can motivate myself to put aside my mood and make this a year that lives up to the promise of the jacket.