Today is my birthday! 😀 I turn 26 years old today, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.
Before you throw your birthday cards illustrated with adorable cats out the window, hear me out. I don’t think I am alone in my approach to adult birthdays, aging, growing old, etc. It isn’t really a secret that in our modern society, aging isn’t a necessarily welcomed friend. We don’t celebrate gray hairs or wrinkles, and we don’t brag about our age after a certain point—we may even hide our true maturity, drop a few years when we can, and celebrate when randomly carded at a bar. Even more so, research now says that Millennials (that’s me!), specifically, fear aging more than any other group. Now, I can’t speak for an entire subpopulation, but I can confess that I, Janeil Emma Jaggers Whitworth, am afraid to age—even when it’s staring me in the face on my own birthday.
There, I said it.
To me, it seems there is some indiscernible indent in time when we stop thinking about birthdays in terms of growth and milestones, and start thinking about them in terms of decline and degeneration. We stop asking what the birthday boy or girl wishes to do in their 30th year of life, 55th year of life, or even 83rd year of life. We stop imagining growth and ultimately, presume decline. I suppose we do a great disservice to ourselves when we buy into the myth that our best years- our healthiest, most joyful years- are behind us. I have fallen victim to this way of thinking. I see it in the way I view my own aging process with CF, and I am challenging myself to stop it right now– at age 26.
Moreover, specifically in the world of cystic fibrosis, aging and adulting with this genetic disease is a relatively new phenomenon. Two decades ago, CF was once considered a pediatric disease but thanks to better care and research, the CF population is now composed of more adults than children. It’s exciting! It’s hopeful! It can feel like we are entering uncharted and anxious territory. That being said, the very nature of CF is progressive. As time passes, we are expected to get worse and birthdays can serve as a metaphorical reminder of that detail. Even when we talk about treatment, we chatter about halting the damage, or stopping the effects of time—we talk about only maintaining with each year.
We stop imagining growth and presume decline.
Today at age 26, I will be dropped from my mom’s health insurance and have spent the last few months choosing a new plan, coordinating benefits, and praying I haven’t made a mistake overlooking a minor detail. Today at age 26, I am 10 pounds lighter, my lungs are weaker at the moment, and I am on IV antibiotics following a bout of unknown sickness that slightly rocked my little 25-year-old world.
Maybe I needed to be at this point the moment I turned 26 to really test my belief that aging can be focused on improvement. At this point, I have more room to grow–more space to advance and rally than my previous years. I have percentage points to gain and goals to work toward once again. I am firm believer that things happen for a reason, and maybe that reason being I personally needed a reminded to view my own movement of “progression” in an upward slope, instead of a downward one. To start at the bottom and find my way back up– to appreciate that if this is my “bottom”, than I am more blessed than many.
So as I turn 26, more than ever, I am now holding onto the belief that this will be my best year yet! There is so much beautiful opportunity to look forward to. So many things I wish to see, do, and especially, eat. Twenty six and counting is my new motto.
Let’s party! Bring on all the queso and all the cake! I have work to do.
Thank you for all the birthday love and wishes! Let’s make birthdays about celebrating our lovely potential surrounded by the people who help us achieve it.