Birthday leads to reflections

There comes a day every year when you stop and reflect – a day when you perhaps look a little closer at your bucket list.

You either let this day waste away or you wake up and make it everything you’ve wanted every day prior to be – because you somehow fell short along the way.

It’s not the day when you watch the first leaf fall from a rustic autumn tree. It’s not the day when the sun shines brightest. It’s not even the day when you count how many checkmarks are on your bucket list.

It is, however, your birthday.

I celebrated mine in June. I woke up that morning and realized I only had 365 more days until I turn 30. As texts from my friends started to trickle in on my phone, I also realized that we’ve all grown up together in some way – and in doing so, we’ve all grown to make a life for ourselves, as different as our lives may be.

My friends’ lives are filled with wedding bells and babies while my life runs on word counts and deadlines. It’s such a huge difference – so much so that I don’t think it’s fair to make a comparison because our daily existence is based on two polar opposite things that lead to experiences that are even more opposite.

However, I don’t think that downplays the level of importance those things have in our lives. They impact the way we think about today, as well as the future. In fact, I think they’re the things that made us grow up the way we have.

Because we lead such different lives, I also think that gives us an opportunity to experience things that we wouldn’t get to if we weren’t friends.

Before I met my friends’ kids, for example, I wondered what it would be like to be called “Aunt Ewin” or at least be close enough to a kid to be considered an aunt or even a godmother. When my friends put their bundles of joy on my lap, however, it feels like I’ve watched them grow and the title of “Aunt Ewin” doesn’t feel so out-of-place.

In fact, it feels deserved and, in many ways, earned. It lets me know that I have a place in their lives just like they have a place in mine – that we’ve gotten passed the awkwardness of my wheelchair to the point where we’ve built our own extended family. It’s an experience I didn’t think I needed or wanted to have, but now that I’ve had it I take the responsibility it brings seriously.

I can’t say what my being a writer does for my friends, but they’re respectful in knowing I have to take care of my work the same way they have to live their lives and take care of their kids. Sometimes that means taking a few rain checks on dinner or a movie, which we eventually make up for.

Don’t we all find ourselves trying to make up for lost time at one point or another, though? It goes to show that adulthood is just as much a reflection of time as looking in a mirror is.

So, next year when you blow out those candles on your birthday cake, don’t think of it as getting another year older. Think of it as a step toward another adventure on your bucket list.

Erin Kelly, 29, was born with cerebral palsy in Korea, and lives in Altoona. Email her at