Today was my birthday.
The festivities technically started last night at 10 o’clock. When my roommate got back to our room after her long day at the statehouse, I was in tears. If we’re honest, it was probably all hormones. But I was just not having a good day. I’d had deep conversations that stirred up difficult emotions and I was just ready to go to sleep.
So my roommate, being the wonderfully incredible person that she is decided that she should give me my present early as a bit of a pick-me-up. And pick me up it did.
After I tossed the tissue paper about, we talked. I talked, she listened, and the other way around. That’s what’s beautiful about our friendship—it’s mutual.
Around 11:55, she left. Initially, I thought nothing of it. Then, sometime right around 11:59, I heard the boisterous voices of my lovely neighbors/friends fall to a whisper and suddenly, I could hear silent bickering outside my door. I knew what was coming and tried to force a straight face so my look of surprise could be genuine—because truly, it was.
They burst through the door, flinging balloons in my general direction and waking up the entire floor with a cacophonous version of “Happy Birthday” that put one of those goofy grins on my face. They’d written me notes on the balloons (one of them was in French (high-five, Anne)), and given me gifts—neither of which I was expecting. It was simple, but so ridiculously thoughtful that my heart was soaring. Not only had they thought about me before the first minute of my birthday, but they did everything they could to make the first second special.
The rest of the night was filled with the sort of laughter that makes for stomach aches and the sort of shenanigans one could only expect from the first hour of St. Patrick’s Day. (I realize now that you could view that as a drinking innuendo. I assure you, the only drunkenness I experienced was on joy.)
I went to sleep last night feeling cherished, and loved, and positive.
When I woke up this morning at 7 (FINE—7:30), I already had seven text messages. SEVEN. At 7(:30) am.
Soon, I arrived at my 9 am class, and my professor and InterVarsity advisor wished me a happy birthday. She smiled, and was cheerful, and meant it. She thought of me. She remembered. And while my midnight shenanigans may have hindered my ability to fully focus on her class, I was grateful for her, for everything she is for our campus, and for everything that she is to me.
Not long after, I received a text from my friend, and she wanted to meet me in the library whenever I would be on my way to my next class. When I walked through the door, she hugged me and gave me a gift. It was a devotional journal—because I’d mentioned at church one Sunday that mine was full. The fact that she had listened to me, and remembered that I’d needed a new one filled me with unmeasurable joy. It was so unexpected, but that alone made my day so special. Everyone knows it too—I kept shoving it in their faces like a child with a cool toy on Christmas.
Later in the day, my lifetime friend came to see me. He goes to Purdue, but he was home for spring break and decided to visit me and he took me to one of my favorite places in my town. (Side note: That was my first time calling my college town my town, and I love the way that feels.) We went to Benjamin’s which is just so perfectly fit for the town of Franklin.
As we strolled inside and chose a table, I was greeted by my friends who work there, and I had the pleasure of introducing my lifetime friend to my friends of a lifetime.
Allen smiled at him and greeted him like an old friend. Danielle, who already knew his family, sat at our table and talked like she’s known him forever. Anne, who’d met him once before, had already accepted him as one of her own, and even made fun of him a few times—you know she cares when she bullies you gently. My new friends accepted him like they’d accepted me: completely, and fully, and without a second thought.
Everything just felt perfect, like my two worlds were fusing together into this exceptional medley that shapes who I am. Where I came from, and where I am, and where I’m heading felt like it fell into place.
Lifetime Friend and I talked for a long time. I was so glad that he had come.
“It seems like everyone knows everyone here,” he commented on the way I’d been greeted by so many people upon entering the room.
“We do.” I smiled and gripped the tea that he’d bought me.
“I’m so glad that you’ve found a place where you belong, Abby. Even on my drive here, I saw you in everything. If you were a place, you’d be this place. You fit so well here.”
He’s right. I do. Franklin, a town 20 minutes from where I grew up and yet hardly seemed to exist in my mind prior to my enrollment in the college, has become a home. The moment was palpable for me. Someone who has known me my whole life, perhaps even known me better than I’ve known myself at times, knows that this is my home. His taking the time to come see me on my birthday was alone incredible, but his taking the time to come get to know me in this new setting was the greatest gift he could have given me.
On my drive home from school, I had to take a moment to breathe. Already I’d received so much love from my friends. I thanked God for the unbelievable life he’d given me and for the days that had led me to where I am. Then, of course, I cranked the show tunes (I was listening to The Last Five Years soundtrack, in case you were curious).
When I walked through the door of my home, trailed by one of my best friends, letting my bags plop to the floor was I went, I called out for my parents. When I saw them, I was enveloped in an immediate embrace. My mother, the sweetest lady in the whole wide world, had made me a cake—a vegan cake. While she apologized for the way it looked (it was a bit crumbly and the cake had sort of mixed with the frosting on the top), I saw sparks behind her eyes. She was so proud that she’d made me a vegan cake, and I was so touched that she’d taken the time.
Impatiently, I asked if we could eat cake before we went to dinner, and because it was my birthday I got the Whatever-You-Say-Goes treatment.
At the Cheesecake Factory, my friend (who for some reason ended up in control of my Instagram account when I gave up social media for the year) showed me everything that had been posted for my birthday. Let me tell you, friends, I was almost brought to tears in the lobby of the Cheesecake Factory. The words that my friends had written were so kind. These people who now made up my life were not only taking time out of their day to post about me, but to do it eloquently. I’ve never felt more appreciated, and I’ve never had people in my life know me so well.
After dinner, I was sitting at home with my mother when my brother called. The first thing I heard when I answered was my nephew singing Happy Birthday. Five-year-old vocal cords are adorable. Then my brother and his wife showered me with praise and compliments and reassurance. They told me how proud they were of me, and how proud my father would be of me, and then over the phone, they prayed over me. Again, I was almost brought to tears. I don’t see my brother often—but to know that he cares, and sees who I am, and appreciates me for who I’m becoming means so much.
Then, around 9:00, I drove to my sister’s house. We had plans to see Beauty and the Beast. She was 11 years old when I was born, so she played a huge part in creating the Disney fanatic I am today. I couldn’t have imagined seeing the film with anyone else. We ate a ridiculous amount of popcorn before the previews were over, and then watched with wide eyes as the movie began to play. Throughout the film we both had stupid, ridiculous grins plastered on our faces. It was everything that we’d hoped it would be and more. And my hour of “isn’t this the most excited you’ve ever been about anything?” before the film now feels warranted. Because I was. And it was worth the hype.
As I drove home after the film, I turned the music on again—this time opting for Ben Rector’s most recent album—and began to sob. I was overflowing with joy and I couldn’t hold it in any longer. God and I had a really good talk. I thanked him for every single day, hour, minute that led me to where I am. It’s good to know that every bad, tragic, or just plain mediocre thing that’s ever happened to me has shaped me and molded me just as much as the good things. I thanked Him for the not-so-great week I’d had prior to my birthday so that I could fully appreciate this incredible day. I thanked Him for the opportunities that He’s given me, and for the unbelievable people that He’s put into my life. I thanked Him for making me a lonely little girl, so that the girl I am now knows how to appreciate the friends that surround me. I thanked Him for my life, for my experiences, and for my relationships. I’m so very lucky. Today, I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
When I got home, I wrapped my arms around my mom and didn’t let go for an exceptionally long time. I was brimming with love and gratefulness.
God is good, my friends. And so are birthdays. And so are you.