February 13, 2012. Seven years ago now. You woke up expecting just another day. There wasn't going to be a card with tender words or a gift or any celebratory plans. That's just the way he was. He didn't "do" special occasions. Your 39th birthday would come and go quietly.
What you didn't know when you woke up on this day seven years ago was that you were a mere month away from the most important belated birthday gift you would ever receive: Life-upending change.
It began so unceremoniously. You felt him staring at you as you were reading before bed one night. When you turned to him, the man you had spent the last 12 years of your life with looked at you, then at the dog sleeping at the foot of the bed, then back at you. You hadn't been sure about adopting. You both worked long hours; did you have the right kind of life for giving a dog a fulfilling and rich one? But he loved animals, and he was insistent. Which had made the next six months such a surprise.
When he finally spoke, he did so quietly. “She's always been your dog," he said. "She should stay with you."
You held his gaze for a moment before nodding. You turned off the light. The next day you got up, went to work, and started looking for your own place. It was just that easy. It was just that hard.
There's a theory that we go undergo personal evolution every seven years. Biologically speaking, a constant state of regeneration means that the average age of cells in an adult body is 7 to 10 years old. But in terms of who we are in the world, many believe that the seven-year cycle allows for life experience to be absorbed and processed before its lessons propel us into the next better and wiser unfolding of ourselves.
If that's true, it's been quite the seven years, hasn't it? And oh. Is it ever time for a new cycle to begin.
Back then you moved into that place of your own and began emerging from a cocoon of numbness you had let yourself become trapped in. Living alone for the first time in 12 years gave you a freedom that you relished; it allowed you to gradually shed the layers you had wound around yourself for a decade. And you found her buried deeply inside, at the centre of that fortress: the woman you were always supposed to be. You ushered her into the light.
You took up distance running in a desperate attempt to tire out that wildly energetic dog you had never expected to take such a central role in your life. In the process, you fell deeply in love with the marathon. Endurance training and racing taught you that limits are entirely self-imposed, and at 40 years old you had only just begun to glimpse the depth and breadth of your strength and grit. What joy there was in discovering that at middle age, life was really just beginning in so many ways. That mettle of yours has been tested of late as you've run inconsistently between injuries and battled doubts you'll ever find your legs again. But you can feel them, can't you? The finish lines that lie ahead? They're there, and they're calling, and now it's up to you to find the best way for reaching them.
Then you bought that plane ticket. It was the bravest thing you'd ever done, and you flung yourself with heart wide open into the unknown. You loved with every single fibre that makes you. And that's precisely what you offered him: your truest, barest, most elemental self. Your heart ended up getting smashed in the end but it was only because you had to pick up its every last piece and mend it that you understood just how fucking enormous it actually is. And you remember it, don't you? The exact moment when you heard a thump? That was the day your heart started to beat again. Its rhythm is extraordinarily beautiful – don't you ever stop hearing it.
Perhaps most important of all, you finally did it. You did the thing you've always feared most. You tried being a writer. And hey. You failed. Miserably, no less, considering every submission you made last year was rejected. Since you decided at the tender age of six that you wanted to be an author, what you have feared most is that if you tried it in earnest and failed, it would mean your most cherished dream was a lie.
Except it turned out that failure prompted you to work harder, to be even braver, and to never lose sight of what your heart knows to be true. Failure cleared away the distractions, turned down the noise, and allowed you to focus intently on honing your craft. Last year, despite the rejections, was the richest year you've ever known as a creator. You wrote more than you ever have before, and the sheer joy you felt when immersed in the act was an ever-present touchstone that led the way. It is from that joy you are about to make the first submission in this new creative year. Look at you, trying again. Failure, it would appear, is a really good teacher.
And so here you are, turning forty-six on February 13 seven years after all that change and learning and growth. It really does feel like the beginning of new era, doesn't it? Your body, your heart, your mind: Each one of them has undergone a radical transformation over these last seven years and now, together, they stand united. There will be joy ahead. There will be tears. Life always mixes the two. You're smart enough to know there are no fairy-tale endings in real life. But you're also wise enough never to have stopped believing in magic.
Now it’s time to make some.