This time last year, I was sitting in a Yoga Shala in Mysore, India being serenaded by complete strangers who quickly became my new friends. It was my 36th birthday, and even if I wasn’t with any of my actual family, I still couldn’t be happier in that very moment. I was doing something that I was passionate about and decided to pursue whole-heartedly with no hesitation. That’s how I started off my birthday last year, and although I am not traveling right now, I am right where I’m supposed to be.
Your birthday is a great time to reflect and look back on the year that was. Like any other year of my life, this year has provided me with the trials and tribulations, misfortunes and blessings, and the overall ups and downs that are seemingly inevitable. No matter who you are, where you live, and the life you lead, we are all experience life in moments; moments that may be positive, may be negative, but are always fleeting.
Having said that, I wouldn’t have changed anything that transpired. Let me rephrase that. I couldn’t have changed anything that transpired. If I could have changed certain events and stopped some bad things from happening, I undoubtedly would have done so in the blink of an eye. But, that’s not how life works.
That reminds me of a phrase that I used to hear when I was in kindergarten and then, to come full circle, what I would tell my preschool students when I was a teacher: “You get what you get and you don’t get upset”. I am not sure that this was in the book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, but if it’s not, it definitely should be. That statement can be applied to each and every one of us no matter where we are in our lives. This past year, I was constantly repeating this to myself and had to completely surrender to the fact that life was going to happen. I was going to get what I was going to get and I could not get upset. Or in other words, I had to fully accept life on life’s terms.
I would absolutely love when I positive things came into my life or situations unfolded that brought me joy and happiness, I mean who wouldn’t? But at the same time, I had to be content and comfortable with negative things happening or dealing with circumstances that caused feelings of sadness, grief, anger, or frustration. It’s a package deal. You can’t have one without the other. I couldn’t just accept all the positives and ignore the negatives. As I said before, that’s not how life works.
Looking back on this last year and wishing my life had unraveled differently doesn’t serve me in the present, at this moment. Instead, I choose to look back, I chose to reflect on the past 365 days, but when I do so, I don’t allow myself to have any regrets. I don’t allow myself to feel sorry for myself and drown in self-pity. I don’t allow myself to try to deceive myself into thinking that my life should've went in a different direction, played out exactly how I wanted it to.
I truly understand that everything happens for a reason. And, I know what you might be thinking and it does sound very cliché. But, what I’ve learned in my 37 years on this planet is that when something ends up being cliché, it usually means that it’s true. It usually means that no matter what the situation, this statement, this phrase, this piece of advice, is appropriate. It’s applicable to what we all go through on a daily basis, whether it’s something that brings you joy or brings you to tears. In the latter situations, you may not want to believe that everything happens for a reason because you’re angry, you’re upset, you might even be cursing out whoever or whatever you choose to believe in. I get it. I’m with you. I’ve been there. It’s absolutely alright to feel this way. It’s human to feel this way. But, just as there is a time to allow your feelings to take over, there is a time for you to surrender and to recognize that life goes on. Life is going to continue to happen. Therefore, you have to accept it. You have to really accept life and everything it has to offer, everything it chooses to give you.
I’m a firm believer that we are never given more than we can handle. We may think that we aren’t strong enough or that we aren’t smart enough or we aren’t worthy enough to deal with what life presents us, but we are. You are and I am. We all have the ability to take what life bestows upon us and get through it, no matter the situation. We all have the ability to weather any storms that we find ourselves in and come out the other side a better, stronger, more courageous, loving, and kind individual who genuinely grasps the concept of gratitude. To me, being grateful, being eternally grateful for everything in your life is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself.
On June 5th, when I turn 37, my greatest gift to myself is the gratitude I have for everything in my life. The gratitude I have for being alive, being able to experience this thing called life for another day, another 24 hours. The gratitude I have for my family, the people who have always been in my corner, no matter what. The gratitude for the people that came into my life, as well as the people that are no longer present. They all play a role, they all have a purpose, they all carry a message, a lesson, or a hold a mirror up to my face so I can see me, even when I want to look away.
And lastly, the gratitude I have for all that I have experienced because I am extremely grateful today for the ability to feel. I no longer numb myself to avoid feelings. I am grateful that I can give myself the chance to feel my feelings. To feel happiness, to feel joy, to feel freedom, but at the same time, to feel sadness, to feel grief, to feel pain. Because, that’s life. I understand that now.
My birthday motivated me to reflect and look back, but this is something that I do on a regular basis. The gratitude that fills my mind, my body, my heart, and my soul is always present. I’ve learned that a grateful mind doesn’t sabotage, a grateful body doesn’t abuse, a grateful heart doesn’t hate, and a grateful soul is pure.
So, I choose to be grateful. I choose to live a life that is full of gratitude. This offering to myself may be magnified to a certain extent on my birthday, but I make a conscious effort to give myself this gift each and every day I am blessed enough to wake up and experience life.
Happy Birthday, Kyle. Let’s make this year count. Remember, be grateful, no matter what.