It sounds like I made it up, when I look back. Like one of those glossy photos that feels surreal but intangible, packaged up and carefully set aside on a shelf — important, but distant.
I remember it like it was a dream — this bizarrely perfect moment in time when the stars aligned right before my eyes and I felt at peace with the world.
I look down at my 20-year-old self in that frozen span of time and smile, like an older sister, reliving her more formative years. It’s just after midnight, December 27, 2003.
I look over to Jim, as if through a window, sheltering the younger me from the frigid but crisp air that comes in the dead of night. We’re standing by my parents’ station wagon, and I know it’s time to go home.
We look up at the sky, and time seems to expand and contract and ebb and flow before our eyes. The black sky is open and clean and will likely swallow us whole if we look at it for too long.
Jim points out the constellations, and I smile, knowing we’re living out one of those great sappy romance scenarios and wondering if he’ll find a star to name after me next, or make me a world-is-our-oyster promise to lasso the moon.
We gaze up with wonder at the tiny brightly shining stars, who seem to have mustered up all of their internal strength to show off to us their very best. Then, there, from the corner of my eye, I see a star — this glimmering and inanimate object — come to life. It makes its way across the sky smoothly, intently, defiantly — as if freeing itself from the confines of its assigned position in the universe. We stare at it, motionless, in disbelief.
“That can’t be real. It’s a jet plane, right?”
“Nope. It’s a shooting star, baby,” Jim says, pulling me closer. “Happy birthday.”
I look back on that moment, exactly a decade ago, and I marvel. I still can’t believe how happy I’ve felt for so long, felt, and how humbled and mesmerized and loved I’ve felt by the world around me.
I think about today, and how I’m turning 30, and I know. Come what may, I’ve already found a life of appreciation and joy and comfort and love. And that, in itself, is pretty much all anyone can really ask for.