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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Life Doesn't End At 29

I spent the majority of my childhood wanting to "grow up," to stay up late, to eat whatever I wanted while watching whatever I wanted, and to do exactly what I pleased. 

I can remember being a child and looking at myself in the mirror:  Missing teeth, a chickenpox scar adorning my forehead, freckles scattered across my cheekbones, a battle wound resting on my chin, lanky arms and awkward, skinny legs.  And in that moment, I asked myself, "I wonder what I will look like when I am grown up."

Yes, growing up was what it was all about, until I started actually growing up.  I imagine that I am no different than most people who cringe at the thought of turning THIRTY.  Throughout my teens and twenties, thirty meant: Mom jeans and nine thirty bed times.  It meant trading in a late night out for a movie on the couch.  Thirty is healthy, fiber rich cereal and a Facebook feed that transforms from party pictures of your friends with drinks in hand to birthday party pictures of your friends with baby(ies) in hand.  Now, not all of these things are bad, but they are definitely a change from the life of a twenty-year-old-something.

While these adjustments are a little worrisome, something bothers me much more about turning 30...the fact that I will out live my dad.  If you have not lost a parent at a young age, this may seem odd, but knowing that  I will be turning the age of my father when he died is scary and sad.  I have spent the latter part of my twenties hyper focused on this fact.  Putting myself in his place, thinking about what it would be like to never kiss my girls again or see them grow up, realizing that my sense of invincibility is suddenly nonexistent.  I have tried, throughout my life, to not let my father's death define me, but I would be a liar if I said that it did not play a tremendous role in my last few years as a twenty year old.

I am putting a stop to this today. 

My dad was more than his death.  He was a strong, loving, and positive person.  My dad was a father, a friend, a union activist, a musician, an athlete, a husband, a gardener, a fighter, a kind smile, a warm heart...he wasn't death.  He spent his life giving to others, especially those in need, and trying to make the world a better place to exist in.  Thirty years of giving is more than some people do in a lifetime of seventy years.

The other day, I found a quote, in my dad's handwriting, on piece of scrap paper, amid some of his items that my mother asked me to hold onto.  Scrawled neatly on the paper was a quote by Charles Dickens "when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

That is what it is all about, treating others with kindness no matter who they are, what they have, or where they come from and enjoying life in the process.

In memory of my dad and the thirty beautiful years he spent on this earth, and in celebration of my thirtieth birthday, I have decided to perform 30 Acts of Kindness.   I am going to chronicle them on my blog each day starting January 2nd.  This is my birthday gift to myself...this is my smile, my birthday hug, my special moment with my dad in heaven.

Life doesn't end at 29.

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