By Jesse James
Age: something often taken for granted in our younger years, yet an incredible point of pride for me.
It is important to me, but not for the reasons you might think.
For I am not sitting here with regret nor concern for the days that have passed me by; neither am I fretting for the days to come. Still, I feel accomplished when noting my age, even if the number is not yet one that is seemingly large or great.
Today is my 25th birthday—a day I never thought I would see.
Over two and a half decades tallied. They signify and cement all of the years that I have survived. Proof and culmination of all the moments and days I have clung to and managed to push forward beyond—beyond rape and violence; beyond isolation and grief; beyond depression and illness; anxiety, anger, alcoholism and abuse. Even beyond suicide attempts and self-harm.
I’ve made it past all of the reasons, all those that told me not to, that tried to hinder me. Grasping at fractured shards, small moments of joy and of hope, of exuberance in the in-between. I allowed them to guide me, to salvage me. And here I am today.
As someone who has lived the past 13 plus years waging an internal war with depression—and many more years before that battling a force I had not yet given a name—reaching a quarter of a century has been something I have been looking forward to. It is a milestone in my struggle and recovery just knowing that I made it here.
For someone who never thought that they would reach the age of 14, or 16, 18 or 20—when it felt like I was losing myself again in this past year—this has been a far surpassing goal to come. This is not to say that this is not still a moment-to-moment struggle for me (it is), rather that it feels good to have brought myself to this point.
It is truly a remarkable space to be in though: seeing and acknowledging oneself in life 13 years later than you ever thought you would be. This knowledge is both surreal and overwhelming, but also cause to celebrate, too.
When I was younger I didn’t care much about my birthday, I didn’t understand the big deal. As I committed to moving past my depression however, to recovering and really living my life in full, each year that passed and cycled around the earth, it became a gift for me to acknowledge.
I still don’t really like the hoopla of birthdays. For me the idea of a party and attention is an awkward and anxiety inducing thing. There has also been a lot of pain and aggression that have surrounded a lot of them, too, of which I am wary. But still, I appreciate taking time to note the day and to take quiet moments to reflect; to sit with and check in with myself. They have become something important, something sacred to me. And it is here that I finally feel able to partake in and understand that which is the celebration of life.
I am not where I want to be with myself in my recovery as of yet, neither am I where or who I want to be yet in life.
But that’s okay. It gives me something to work towards—something to hold on to. Because I am really curious to see how things will turn out for me and how I will make them for myself. I look forward to not only wading through, but to actively propelling myself through yet another year.
Because, all of the small steps we take, they will eventually add up. And then we wake up one day realizing that we have arrived as ourselves at our destination.
If only we allow ourselves permission to focus; to work on taking each single small step at a time.
Each and every day I am coming home to myself, and my resolve to live gets greater as I do. I have a feeling that 25 will see that I am stronger, breathing fuller, and more capable in my abilities to cope.
So here is to the next step: another year of choosing life. And over and over again I do.
Jesse James: (pronouns: they/them)24 year old Jesse James is a storyteller and creatrix of many things—an equal blend of mystical, myth & science. Owner of Artemisian Artes and a member/founder of The Creating Conscious Arts Collective, they use their voice to promote holistic wellness and inclusive activism/advocacy for the many causes they care about: poverty, disability, full-spectrum equity, anti-oppression movements, trans issues, environmentalism, as well as the violence/politics of Birth (to name a few). A lover of nature and of people; of adventure, and of raw reality—passionate about life and love itself. They adore working with herbs in making natural remedies, and concocting delicious kitchen alchemy is a second nature after breath. They worship the earth, thrive on art, and on forming meaningful connections with others. Their mission is to make that around them more beautiful, or at the very least, to help others see things that already were, in that way. You can find them on Facebook.
Editor: Dana Gornall