The story behind how I spent my 24th birthday really begins with the 10 days before the 11th. I launched the #11ODdays campaign on my Instagram to push myself to release more content. What I didn’t know was that during this time all 800 of my jobs would want 100% of my attention. Between working overtime at my 9-5, putting an average of 20 hours a week at Ulta, and then finding time to plan, create, and edit content, I was stretched thin. Honestly, I live in a place of over-allocation. But the biggest “omg is this over yet” moment was the day before my birthday.
I realized that I didn’t have anything to post for that day of my campaign. (I know, “prior proper planning.”) So, I woke up at 3:30 am to film a video for the day. Then I met up with some co-workers for a field trip to Full Sail University. Since I’ve been in Jacksonville, I’ve been involved with YLDP (Youth Leadership Development Program.) With this opportunity, I get to work with an amazing group of high school students and help them prepare for life after their graduation. We noticed that there were a lot of interests outside of the typical education paths so we decided to take them to Full Sail so that they can have the opportunity to explore their possibilities. The trip was great! We toured the campus, ate at this delicious all day breakfast restaurant, and then got back on the road to Jacksonville.
The ride back was…interesting to say the least. I love the people I rode back with. They’ve made my time here enjoyable and successful. We listened to 90’s R&B the entire trip back while I edited the video I recorded that morning so that I could stay awake and focus. It was great until we wondered if we needed to get gas. The driver quickly realized that we couldn’t stop because we were in the city where George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. The ride continued into Jacksonville then we stopped at the Gate gas station that I go to about once a week and my lack of knowledge about my area was again brought to the center of the conversation.
“You know this is where Jordan Davis died right?”
“Yeah. Looking around you would have never known either.”
My mouth dropped. It was all that I could think about during my shift that night at Ulta. I’ve been so close to incidents that continue to shape my views on life and I didn’t even fully understand what being in Jacksonville really meant. The mental exhaustion from this combined with the physical exhaustion my body had when I finally crawled through my apartment door at 10:30 that night meant that despite my mile-long to-do list, I had no choice but to pass out.
I woke up at 8 am the next morning still exhausted and extremely worried that I had somehow slept through my special day. I spent the first hour or so working on my blog until I finally mustered up the energy to make some coffee and get ready to start my day. The details of what I did aren’t that dramatic. I ate, drank, laughed, and enjoyed myself. I mainly spent the entire day either holding back tears in awe that I made it to this day or really happy and proud of myself for the same reason. I haven’t been shy about the mental health issues I’ve been experiencing. Which is why it was such a big deal for me to make it this far. There were so many moments where I wanted to give up. But by the grace of God, I didn’t.
The words “I’m so blessed” were on the forefront of my mind all day. Between the beautiful messages my family and friends shared with me, the words of encouragement they all gave, and the hilarious pictures they shared to help me celebrate my day made my heart smile. God really did his thing when he put certain people in my life. For that reason alone, I’m forever thankful. Ironically, this is the most low-key birthday I’ve had since I fully started growing into my dramatic self. But, it was one that I will never forget.
I spent the last 6 plus months in a state that has changed the way that I looked at life and didn’t understand the impact that it held. Looking back, some of the pieces in the Lift exhibit make more sense. However, I’m thankful that something in my spirit never let me stop at that gas station at night.
I’m not sure what will happen next, but I know that my birthday marked a season change for me. It could be the weather finally warming up, the fact that I’ve spent some time on my anti-depressants, the fact that I feel so fulfilled in my dramatically busy life, or any combination of the above. But something is different. God is changing my season. Despite the political climate, my feelings after finally seeing “Get Out,” and all the other obstacles in my life right now. I feel so abundantly blessed.