I’m fine. It’s fine. I just turned 29.
Truthfully? I’m not that freaked out. For many women, age can be a touchy subject, but I’ve never really been that way. I credit that largely to growing up with a dad who said, both at home and in the classroom, “Age is just a number. You’ll never feel much older than you feel right now.” And of course, he’s right.
- My mental health is in a better place thanks to Lexapro
- My physical health is in a better place thanks to an amazing PT team and discovering what foods my body doesn’t want to tolerate
- I’m no longer experiencing chronic pain every day of my life
- I love the job I have
- I’ve got a cute little house and two fiery little furbabies who make me laugh every day
- I’ve maintained strong, loving friendships with old friends and grown new ones
- I’m in a healthy, adult relationship based on trust, respect, and genuine care for what feels like the first time in my life
29 is looking pretty damn good, if I do say so myself.
However, birthdays have not always been my jam. (Please excuse the low-quality video.) But this year changed that in a marvelous way thanks to a few unexpected surprises.
Somewhere in my 20s, I fell in love with the romanticism of good, old-fashioned handwritten letters. Probably a by-product of some Nicholas Sparks movie I saw.
Throughout the last decade, I’ve written several letters to important people in my life, and each one brought tremendous joy to my heart. There’s something so magical about the way words on paper can transform someone’s entire day, week, and sometimes, month, all because you took your brain, added some ink, and stained some paper.
I’ve always valued gifts that revolve around time more than anything else. Time is the one thing no one can buy, and the one thing you can’t get back. To intentionally spend your time telling someone how special they are to you is one of the best gifts you can give.
To be clear, while I love being intentional with my time, I am still a typical millennial who enjoys a good Netflix binge… or 12, so I’m by no means hopping up on a soapbox here.
While I’ve written many letters in my life, I’ve been the recipient of few. This year, I didn’t expect to get any letters, let alone 20. And that simple act shifted my state of mind thanks to someone who remembered that I loved letters. While the relationship there is not what it once was, the depths of gratitude I feel are profound.
Those letters filled up a bucket that I didn’t realize had been draining. Quite honestly, I hadn’t really been feeling like I was adding much value to those around me. Not in a depressive kind of way, but in a “I haven’t been actively giving as much of myself as I probably should” kind of way. I didn’t feel like I was impacting those around me, and it was weighing on me like a heavy, silent shadow.
Remember that children’s book, Have You Filled a Bucket Today? I hadn’t heard of it until I became a nanny, and one of the girls picked it out for a naptime story. I loved the message so much that the “bucket book” has stuck with me. It’s probably something I’ll read to my kids one day, because the message is so so important:
Actions have consequences. You can either give to those around you, and in turn, give to yourself, or you can take from those around you, and in turn, you find your bucket beginning to empty.
I haven’t been taking from any buckets, but I also hadn’t been dumping heaping piles of goodness in, either. Not in the way I used to. My bucket filling had become a trickle, and as a result, my own bucket started to feel lighter.
To clarify: I’m not sad, I’m not feeling depressed, or regretful. I have love and joy in my life. But I used to devote a lot more intentional energy to filling up other buckets, just because.
Because it’s nice to see people smile.
Because it’s nice to watch someone stand a little taller, laugh louder, and step more into themselves with just a little extra dose of love.
Because it’s wonderful to see how comfort and support can alleviate pain.
Because it’s amazing to watch a random act of kindness bring gratitude that goes beyond language.
Because creating moments so full of life that the impact can be felt is an unparalleled feeling.
I was introduced to this in college thanks to Dance Marathon, and I threw myself into it. I filled other buckets with the simplest gestures, and my bucket was soon overflowing. Obviously, this wasn’t my intention when I set out to fill other buckets, but it’s a by-product that helps make the world an easier place to exist.
I kept on the “Random Acts of Kindness” train post-college, using my birthday as a way to celebrate those around me.
Up until this year, I always made a plan to do something for others, but somehow I let myself get so caught up in my life that I stopped focusing on giving. Without realizing it, a small leak cracked in the bottom of my bucket when giving so much to others got put on the backburner.
The point is: I didn’t realize my bucket was running empty until the people in my life added so much that I was flooded with feeling genuinely valued and appreciated.
I think we all take for granted our existence. I think we forget to talk about our feelings and appreciation. It’s easy to share our hurt, our pain, our frustration. And it’s good to do that. If you hold onto it, it consumes you, taking up space better used for lighter feelings.
But in all that emotional exorcism, we forget to radiate those larger-than-life feelings. We forget to say more than just “I love you.” We don’t dive headfirst into what and why we love. We forget to acknowledge those things about a person that make us sigh a deep yoga breath of gratitude. We forget to share the value someone brings to our life just by being who they are. We forget to say, “Hey, the world would really suck if you weren’t here, and here are all the marvelous reasons why.”
This year, my birthday was the best yet, thanks to some unexpected letters and a surprise backyard BBQ with so many of the people in my life that I love.
Write a letter to someone who matters in your life. Create a little magic. Share your love, your joy, your compassion, and your appreciation. Fill other buckets.