Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"Auntie Sarah, did you eat your birthday yet?'

It’s happened. On June 26, 2012, on the other side of the planet from the dry West Texas town where I was born, far from the family that raised me and the friends that know me, I turned nineteen years old.

That’s a strange thought. I’d barely gotten used to being eighteen before I was asked to turn nineteen. The night before, unintentionally imitating a memorable scene from Harry Potter, I stayed up till midnight and watched the last few minutes of my eighteenth year of life tick away on my watch in the dark. No one blasted down the door at midnight. Apparently, I’m still not a wizard. In fact, I didn’t feel any different at all. I never do on my birthday, and I suspect I am not alone in this feeling.

The day was not particularly different than any other day here. I taught school, spent time with the other volunteers, and repeatedly answered “Nopes” to the children every time they asked me if I’d “eaten my birthday yet” (referring to a cake). After a delicious Indian dinner of dal, we did in fact enjoy a fantastic mud cake – a miraculous concoction of chocolate, sugar, and coffee that Jasmine made – and watched The Princess Bride, my favorite movie. It was a very enjoyable evening, relaxing and fun. After weeks with no Internet, the rare phone calls home that enabled me to speak to both my parents and Chris were the best birthday present I could have asked for.

Although I don’t feel different, I am different. I think back to this day a year ago, which I spent at a Backstreet Boy’s concert with some of my closest friends from high school. (Yes, Backstreet’s back. Don’t laugh – it was fun, and free.) In the year that has passed, I spent several months in Africa and went to college, where I gained a fantastic roommate (whose blog you should read,) wonderful new friends, an amazing boyfriend, a new job, new responsibilities, new knowledge, a challenged and strengthened faith, and a taste of “the real world” (although the world of pseudo-responsibility that is college does not seem more real than a dusty village in Africa.)

I am certainly not a new and improved Sarah Holley. In some ways, I am identical to the girl I was then. But in other ways, I have grown and changed so much in the last year that I’m not sure I’m the same Sarah Holley I was a year ago. That’s okay, I think. That’s a good thing. God has been teaching me so much about Himself and His children that I hadn’t realized before, and I am more than grateful for the knowledge.

At the same time, as I have said many times before, the biggest thing I have learned in my freshman year of college is just how much more I have to learn – about life, about people, about responsibility, about faith, about the world. I still have a great deal to figure out. I am going to make stupid mistakes and I am going to get some things right. But I will not do it alone. I am surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who are walking with me as I make this journey, and I have a Father who holds my hand and my heart every step of the way. I am more than excited to see where He will take me in the next year.

I will be certain to treasure every moment of being nineteen. If there’s one thing I know about life, it is that it a gift. A year from now, when I’m watching the last few seconds of June 25, 2013 tick away on a clock somewhere else in the world, I plan on enjoying the knowledge that I have taken advantage of every one of the 31,536,000 seconds of the nineteenth year of life I have been granted. And every one of those seconds is going to be incredible.

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