This is what I remember: I turned 24 on a Friday.
The day before, I taught three classes – English and Oral Communication. My cousins picked me up afterwards because we were going to spend the night in Remington Hotel. We ordered pizza, which turned out to be the smallest saddest pizza in the world hidden within an acceptable-sized box. We walked over to the neighboring mall-slash-casino, ordered a bucket of wings and watched a funny Hollywood movie about aliens. We hit the slot machines after and let ourselves lose only up to a point that felt safe. Midnight struck. They sang for me, took pictures then conspired together to find some cake — because nothing says happy birthday better than dessert. There was no big shift but there was the comfort of knowing that I was celebrating with people I was going to know for the rest of my life.
I have been thinking about the year that was. I have been thinking of how to write about it. I have been thinking about what story it tells, my 24th year of life.
It was two in the morning when we started getting ready for bed. The birthday greetings slowly began trickling in. “I am 24 today,” I thought. “I am 24 but I am not quite as remarkable as I want to be.” They asked me what my birthday wish was and I genuinely wasn’t sure at the time. Perhaps, I convinced myself, I am content. And being in that room, with people that I loved, I know that I was. I truly was.
But before giving into slumber, as I lay tucked under a blanket and listened to the sounds of sleep all around me, my prayer was this: “God, please don’t smite me. I know that I am extremely blessed,” Pause. “But I want more.“
I am about to step into my mid-twenties. The closer it gets, the harder it is to believe. I started this blog when I was 21-years-old, when I was still getting to know the world, and I still don’t know it completely but I know myself a whole lot better and that only makes the world a whole lot more familiar. I am not teetering on the brink of uncertainty anymore — although I am sober enough to know that life, by design, is wildly uncertain. I am wise enough to know that I do not know anything, anything at all, and I want to live the rest of my years subscribed to the unconventional education of learning, un-learning and re-learning. I am not who I was when I started this blog and a year from now, it is likely that I won’t be the girl who wrote this entry either.
What I know (for sure and for now) is this: don’t be afraid to ask for more. Don’t be afraid because when you are crazy and honest enough to ask, it is given to you.
I did not know that barely a month later, I would go on to start a passion project that would change my life. I did not know that I would be able to go on a trip abroad with friends — and pay for everything with my own money. I did not know that I would be saying yes to grand things because it is often in my nature to hesitate. I did not know the number of talks I would be asked to give — I would’ve never believed myself worthy of giving any of these. But, somehow, I became somebody worthy. I did not know the number of people I would meet. I did not know how busy I would be kept. I did not know that I would plan a steady number of workshops. And I did not know these workshops would mean something to some people.
I fell asleep that very morning of September 7 and I did not know. And I could not have known. But I had asked, kindly. And I was not disappointed.
I am not saying that when you ask for more, it’ll be handed to you on a silver platter. If anything, asking is only one half of the equation. The larger half is getting off your ass and doing something. Really doing something. Not just mentally planning but actually setting that meeting. Or starting that project. Or asking that person. Or booking that ticket. It’s not about recklessness but it’s about recognizing that life, as uncontrollable as it is, is about wanting something enough to pursue it.
It is the pursuit that changes us. And it is the pursuit of more that makes life meaningful.
I am not talking about more money or more friends or more compliments or more acclaim. I think that while those are great things, they are not ultimate things. The best heroes chase after ultimate things and ultimate things are always things that require laying your life down for the greater good.
I’m not talking about death. I’m talking about sacrifice. I’m talking about service.
I’m talking about using your life to embody that famous EM Forster line that I love: Only connect.
Because the world is looking for a remarkable reason to come together, to love, to feel, to change, to grow. The best of heroes in every story we love are always willing to put the world first — not because they are doomed martyrs but because they are found (ironically) in giving themselves away to a larger cause.
I know that I have not changed the world or created anything unique. I have not done anything groundbreaking or award-winning. But I am going to look in the mirror on September 7, a 25-year-old woman, and note that I am a little more remarkable than last year. I will note that I am coming together beautifully. And, God-willing, I will not be content.
God-willing, I will go and pray and ask, once again, for more. And upon that prayer, I know that I will be leading my 25-year-old self into a great voyage, a grand adventure, a better story.