In three days, I'll be 28 years old. Every time my dad mentions this fact, I remind him that he is my Dad. He looks at me and says, "Damn! How old am I, then?" And now that he is a grandfather, he wonders if that makes him old. I wonder the same thing about myself.
We have a tradition in our family to go to the Japanese Steakhouse--named as such since it could be Benihana or any of its competitors--eat until we're going to explode, drink a little too much, and then ask the question to whoever is celebrating: What have you learned in the past year?
This year, I'm not sure what to say. It might be that the past twelve months have been the most spectacular, frightening, enlightening, and otherwise life-changing months I have ever experienced. I have watched my baby brother become a man as he navigates both a new marriage as a husband and a submarine as a nuclear engineer. I have gotten drastically closer and more distant with various family members, including my father and mother, my step-family, and even my half-sisters. I have left academia, an environment both intoxicating and frustrating, so that I can pursue more meaningful, albeit currently unknown, work. And most importantly, I have given birth to my daughter Katherine Bel, this precious little girl who makes me laugh, confuses me, needs me, whom I love more than anything or anyone I've ever known.
Katie Bel is now 8 months old, trying to crawl and communicate more and more each day. She has taught me patience by crying for almost three months straight, gratitude by being healthy, generosity by demanding everything I have...the list goes on and on. I'm not sure I was worth much to the human race before my daughter leaped into my life. But now, I think I have something to offer other people, whether it's knowledge, laughter, anger, or support. And it only took me 28 years.