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As many of you know I just celebrated my 23rd birthday yesterday.  Maybe it’s just me but every time I see my birth date written anywhere it makes me excited, as if January 16th is the most beautiful day in the world (which it is).  Yep, I love my birthday!  I also love my family so I decided to spend the three day weekend with them in Pennsylvania and, while there, my mom and I went through boxes and boxes of old pictures.  Unable to resist, I had to post a few pictures from birthdays past here:

This might possibly the only cute picture of me as a child. I was heinous.


Third birthday: Trademark crooked smile. The grainy quality makes it even more scary.

I think this was my fourth birthday. Favorite. sweatshirt. ever. Wish I still had it.

Fifth birthday. Barbies and princess games-- who would have known that 18 years later this stereotypical "girly girl" would be a raging feminist, rebelling against all such notions? Watch out parents, this could be your kid!

This isn't even my birthday but it fits with the theme and I love it.

As I look back at these pictures I notice how carefree and demure I was: Barbie and Ken were married, my ice cream sweatshirt rocked, my mom made the best cakes everrr (and still does!), and the only thing that seemed important was which gift to open first– life was good.  In some ways I miss those times when the world was whole, when I felt like I would stay young forever, and my biggest worry was if my friends would be in my class at school. 

In other ways I’m glad that I no longer hold some of those naive notions (Take Barbie and Ken for instance, wrong on so many levels: as if we all have to fit into the “boy” box or the “girl” box and have to marry someone from the opposite box, as if we have to get married at all!  Thank goodness for a wide range of boxes, thank goodness that we don’t even have to check one, thank goodness we don’t all have the same life trajectory.  Ok, I’m stepping off the soap box now).

Birthdays are a time for me to look back at how far I’ve come, to remember where I’ve been, and to celebrate who I am and where I’m going.  It is always a bittersweet time, especially now as my life changes more rapidly than ever before and I find myself, in vain, trying to bridge that little girl with the woman I am now.  Before I know it, I get so caught up in building bridges between the past and the present that I’m overcome with the immense task of keeping all the pieces of my life together: who I was with who I am, my past relationships with my current relationships, my life in Pennsylvania with my life in New York.  It’s as if I don’t build these bridges the past life will be swept away in the strong current, as if the bridge is what keeps it all together. 

I’m wading deeper and deeper in the water, with one foot entrenched in each world, and I find myself being pulled in both directions at the same time and, yes, it’s painful.  I find that bridging the past life with the present life becomes increasingly more difficult each time I transition between them.  I dread goodbyes, even when I know they are more like see you laters.  Each time I bid a loved one goodbye it’s as if they take another piece of me with them and now pieces of me are scattered here and there and, when these pieces realign themselves, a different mosaic is created.  Each recreation is beautiful but it hurts knowing that the picture is constantly changing (and so am I) and will never be the same.

Yet, even in the midst of the scattered pieces, I see my reflection, that little crooked smile looking back at me.  The past is there, the present is there, the future is there and it’s now a much deeper picture. So here I am, letting go of all the pieces, letting them swirl together in the current. Here I am, letting go of the bridge, letting it build itself.