In exactly seven days I will have been alive for three decades. 30 years.
I'm normally not one to make a big deal of birthdays. November 1st rolls around every year, and if I happen to be feeling good about life, I buy a new dress, go to dinner with some friends, eat some cake and call it a day.
But this one is kind of a big deal, and I have a million thoughts swirling in my head about what it all means. So this year, my gift to myself is to purge my brain and get it all down on paper in the week leading up to my birthday.
I can't promise it will be pretty, or make sense, or be well packaged. I can only promise I'll be sincere. Here goes.
I ran into an old classmate at Grace's Mandarin today. I was running in quickly to pick up an order of chicken fried rice to-go, when I noticed a familiar face in the parking lot. It was G. The guy who beat me out for salutatorian in high school. Without a second thought, I ran up to him and gave him a huge hug.
It had been years, but after just a few minutes of conversation, it was clear we had both stayed the same in all the ways that mattered.
We talked briefly about what was new with us and who we kept in touch with. He told me about the funeral of one of our mutual friends who passed away tragically after falling ill in another country.
G made it to the funeral. Unfortunately, I didn't find out until after the fact. To this day, I wish I could have been there.
"How was it?" I asked, not exactly sure how I expected him to answer. I mean funerals are funerals, right?
"It was sad, really sad," he replied in almost a whisper. "I could tell they were trying to make it as upbeat as possible, but it was so abrupt. And he passed away three days after his 30th birthday. That was right before my 30th too, so it hit me really hard."
Sharing the conversation with Musa later, it hit me hard too.
"Can you imagine? What if my life ended now? Right now. I feel like there's so much left to do."
"I can't imagine," Musa replied shaking his head. "I can't imagine what his mother must have gone through losing her son. 30 is so young."
I ran out of concealer earlier this week but decided I could survive by stretching the last few drops until I absolutely had to go buy a new tube (clearly, I excel at procrastination.)
After church, my mom went with me to Sephora so I could grab their signature concealer - my favorite which I highly recommend by the way - in lucky #13 - caramel.
Apparently, everyone else ran out of concealer on precisely the same day as me, because there was nothing left in my color except the tester. I approached the counter clinging to the hope that maybe, just maybe, there were more in the back.
There weren't. I was devastated. Here I had carved out precious moments to come get my beloved fountain of youth in a bottle, and now I'd have to make another trip. Ugh!
The cashier tried unsuccessfully to console me by offering to call another store in the area. I zoned out briefly, catching a glimpse of the Birthday Gift of the month next to the counter - two NARS mini-lip crayons in nude and red.
"Ooh! Can I get my birthday gift?"
"You sure can," came the kind reply.
In that moment, all was right with the world.
"I love lipstick," she told me as she bagged my samples.
"Oh my goodness, me too. You can never underestimate the power of a good lipstick as a pick-me-up."
I only just started wearing lipstick for real, within the past year or so. I missed the whole phase in high school (or earlier?) where I was supposed to experiment with my own femininity.
I've been a tomboy since childhood which I attribute in part to the fact that I grew up around two brothers and in part to my parents' rules which kept me far away from makeup, colored nail polish, arched eyebrows and shaved legs until I was 16 (and I was a cheerleader in high school, so you can imagine how that turned out.)
"The Cobb women are natural," my father reminded me any time I asked if I could have a weave, or highlights, or any other beauty enhancement really.
And so I grew up bare faced and boyish, and not really caring that much.
Something changed when I married my husband. Being known & loved for who I truly am freed me to explore so much I hadn't before.
I've always considered myself a very conservative, classic person. I love vintage. I'm told I have an old soul. I wore pearls with my polos in college and a dress to work almost every single day. And I am a perfectionist above all. I like things to be neat and polished and presentable.
Then I met the love of my life. And I cut all my hair off and went natural (a third time.) And all of a sudden I was wearing bright red lipstick and leather and buying the first pair of ripped jeans I've ever known in life - all the while wondering who in the world I was becoming.
I still struggle to come to grips with the fact that I'm a mom.
When did this happen?
My heart has become so tender it annoys me. I cry at all the awful things on the news. Tear up watching my son sleep. Routinely run my mascara at church.
I'm such a sap.
I was never a tough or particularly strong person, but becoming a mother has made me incredibly vulnerable. My heart is on my sleeve when it comes to the things that matter most.
A little life depends on me, needs me.
And it's changed - is changing - me.