It's so easy for me to overlook time and fail to notice how many changes have occurred in my life. One birthday ago, the world was smack-dab in the middle of COVID-19, and this day that was always special to me shrank into something meaningless.
But there I lay, one week ago, restless in bed and hoping that this year would be different. And it was.
If you're not my age, it's hard to think about what would be going through a fourteen-year-old’s mind after experiencing the pandemic and trying to celebrate with a smile on their face. For me at least, it was hard thinking about how many problems we encountered to go out and get a present for someone or buy some candles. I won't lie and say I was happy how things had turned out on my birthday last year. My heart squeezed when I walked out of my bedroom and saw no presents on the table and realized that we weren't going to celebrate with friends. I thought about others I knew who felt the same way, and thought that it was wrong to express that feeling.
I remember cursing at this pandemic for what it had done to countless numbers of people, and how much it had taken away from us. It made me so mad that I didn't have a chance to say goodbye to the things I never thought would go away. It made me go to sleep sobbing on my thirteenth birthday that I wish hadn't happened—as selfish as that was.
Two days before my birthday this year, I met up with two of my friends who had been my editors for the school newspaper and magazine. They were seated on a bench in front of a ramen restaurant with humongous gift bags next to them.
As they turned around, I resisted the urge to switch on the "shy mode" that always crept up on me whenever I met with friends. At that moment, I realized that they were waiting for me. I was standing face-to-face with friends who were waiting for me to arrive.
And as simple as that sounds, I couldn't have appreciated that feeling more.