By Genna Hegerich
I turn 60 this year, very soon in fact.
Of course, many of my friends are also turning 60 this year, too. I’m happy about it all. It’s a privilege and a blessing to be given the opportunity to age, to grow and develop in this life—a privilege and blessing not given to everyone. I haven’t felt part of this sort of “group shift” since we all turned 18 together billions of years ago.
Each decade marker birthday has its own vibration—much of which seems to depend on where you are in your life at that moment. But, at 60, you know without a doubt that you have fewer years ahead of you than behind you.
I’m reasonably at peace these days, but I’ve had to let go of a lot the last couple of years. My closest friends are one part of life that I have and will continue to hold very near to my heart. And at this moment in my life I feel, maybe more than ever, the need and desire to say, “I love you” to them. I wouldn’t have made it this far without you.
Your friendships touch every cell in my heart, mind and soul.
This is what I love about you:
(Friend 1)—You are magical. An artist and a scientist both with vibrant enthusiasm and vision. You inspire me. You challenge me. Being inauthentic with you is not an option. You bring out the deepest real of me there is and I love you for that. I love that you let me know I do the same for you.
(Friend 2)—You’re able to be both effortlessly buoyant and consistently lighthearted while also being someone who I connect with deeply. You’re a lifelong singer and have taken your gift with people into the medical field where you are the angel who helps guide people through difficult and painful times in their lives. You’re a healer of both body and soul, including mine.
(Friend 3)—When illness threatened both your livelihood and your life, you found the strength to pull yourself back from the edge. You not only reinvented your professional life, you took your experiences and your gifts and transformed them into a mission for something larger than yourself.
You see a bigger picture than most people I know…and I know some big-hearted people. You traveled over eight states to tell me (and several others) that we’d impacted your life in a positive way. You traveled over eight states to say “thank you” in person.
Your fierce commitment to authentically connect and to live a meaningful life is a beautiful reminder that our time here is short and that what we choose to do with our lives matters. You are a gift.
(Friend 4)—You love to laugh and enjoy being the one leading the charge into frivolity and fun –not my strong suit, as you well know. Being on your party team makes me both anxious and giddy with unknown possibilities as you are the one I can count on to encourage me towards areas of life I wouldn’t likely go myself. Your irreverent and outrageous energy is an invitation to experience life and myself in new ways. That’s what I’d call “the good stuff.”
(Friend 5)—You’re “the mom,” “the wife,” “the lawyer” and we’ve known each other since high school. We went totally different ways in life, but since we reconnected I’ve found that you are the friend I can most relax my guard with when we’re together.
During your mom’s last year of life we continued to meet for lunch and I will always remember the tenderness as we sat fully present together in the emotions of that time. Those are sacred moments to me. That, and you still wear coral pink jeans.
When I see you walking up to meet for lunch wearing those jeans with a simple white tee, I do an inner fist pump that I’m friends with a woman who’s that fierce. But I look to you, more than you know, for truth and deep connection.
(Friend 6)—My friend and my sister. After being friends and living two blocks from each other for close to 20 years, I call you my sister. When I told you that on the phone just a couple of years ago, you cried. There’s nothing you could do that would defeat this love and alliance.
You’ve been there for me so many times through so many levels of hope, daily drama and despair that I can’t imagine life without you. Our walks through the park in Brooklyn began decades ago with excited talk about what guys had caught our eye and what fabulous opportunity had moved into our paths.
When I left Brooklyn 20 years later, we tended to talk about a mole that needed to be looked at and whether our new glasses really gave us the eyesight we remembered from “when we were young.” And we both find that totally bizarre and very funny. That we’ve aged so much. But that we’re, also, still the same. I love you for being you. Always will.
I had a dream last week where I was back working in New York.
It was Christmas Eve and I was stuck at work. I couldn’t seem to get away to be home with my family. The elevators weren’t working right and I had a hard time getting them to stop at the lobby. Racing to catch the subway to take me home, I could hear the train pulling through the station as I ran down the stairs. I’d missed the train.
While digging through my purse for my fare money at the token booth I saw my mom out of the corner of my eye. She had no business being there and I was confused. I turned around and saw my dad behind me next to her in his heavy overcoat and fedora hat like he used to wear to work when I was a kid. He was smiling at me.
He’s been dead for close to twenty years by now.
I felt a rush of unexpected joy and threw myself into his arms and he enveloped me in a huge warm hug. We held onto each other for a long time enjoying the closeness and connection. Dad and I had a much more complex and conflicted relationship in life. But, I believe this was his way of wishing me a very “Happy 60th Birthday.”
We are all alone. Truly.
We all walk our paths by ourselves. But we are together, too. Truly.
We are changed and nourished and shaped and loved by the people we choose to have in our lives. And that is how I feel as I approach my big birthday: truly alone and truly loved at the same beautiful time.
I am so grateful to have you in my life.
Genna Hegerich was born in the Midwest, raised in the “new south” (yep, Florida) and lived for 19 years in Brooklyn, NY. Starting out in college as an art student, she changed majors in her senior year to theater (sorry Mom & Dad). Not long after graduating with a BA in acting she moved to NYC to attend the graduate acting program at NYU. After a number of years banging on the acting career door she pulled the plug on that dream and settled into a life of work and play in the big city. 15 years ago she moved back to Florida after two deaths in the family that shifted her heart and soul in a new direction. Now, life has swerved again. The custom stationery store she managed for over 10 years has closed. Life seems to have more questions than answers these days. And that feels good—open ended and filled with choices and possibilities. Being creative feels healing and empowering. The whispered wish that as one life ends, another is already beginning has become a prayer and an affirmation. Life moves us forward.
Photo: (Editor’s photo)
Editor: Dana Gornall