I walked up to the door to find the manager opening it for me, smiling and saying, “Happy birthday!”
“Oh, thank you!” I replied, surprised. She must have seen on Facebook, I thought. But then,
“There’s something waiting for you.”
My heart began pounding with nerves and excitement. I dropped my gear on the stage and looked around, searching for the source of the ‘something’ she mentioned. It took less than a second to find it: A bouquet of sunflowers, with a card that read, “You did it.”
Turning 25 one year ago became a pivotal point in my recovery process.
I’d walked around for over a decade prior with the story, “I need to become a famous musician before age 25, because I’ll never make it to that age - I’ll have ended my own life by then.”
I’d hated my existence as a teenager. I thought I was a terrible human (isn’t being a teenager the worst sometimes?) and was convinced I owed the Universe, that I had a responsibility to give back, not because we as humans thrive off of purpose, but because I needed to pay for the terribleness that was me. I yearned to help people, to keep people from living the life of hatred I was living, the life I just knew was destined to end at my own hands.
Each birthday got harder and harder. At 22, I still had 3 years to reach fame, the platform I would use to help as many people as possible. Then, I was 23. Then, I was 24. Approaching my 25th birthday last year, I had to face the facts: Three months was just not enough to reach fame.
I spiraled rapidly into the deepest rock bottom I’d known, ended up hospitalized, and then: I turned 25, and I breathed. Until that moment, I hadn’t even thought to ask myself the question, “Do I even want fame?”
I’d been pursuing that lifestyle with such intensity for so long, I lost myself in it, and my survival became bound to it. Turning 25 created a world of freedom: Within a month of that birthday, my relationship changed, my living situation changed, my job changed, and suddenly, I had a blank slate - with everything I had ever experienced to fuel me.
I’ve spent the past year questioning all of my belief systems, and changing any belief I feel no longer serves me. Since March, I’ve let go of any toxic relationship I’d held; begun performing full-time again; delved into life as an online business owner; put together a 63-day tour around the country, and so much more.
And most of all, I feel powerful. I connect with myself each day, and make space for the parts of me that haven’t healed yet, because let’s face it - I’ve done some crazy awesome things in the past year, and, it’s only been a year since 25. There’s still a lot of internal work to be done, and, let’s face it again: There always will be.
Approaching my 26th birthday on the opposite side of the country, having at that point driven over 5,000 miles and experienced over a month of travel, connections, performances, struggles and triumphs by myself, I found myself reflecting.
In the process of making all these changes and pursuing all these goals, I hadn’t really stopped to think about it. How far I’d come, how much had changed. How hard it is sometimes, to live this new lifestyle when my familiarity is still the world of suicidal thoughts and trauma that I lived from for fourteen years.
So many questions come up for me now: What does it mean to fuel myself from a place of calm instead of anxiety? What does it mean to give myself the space to be my full, best, and most connected self? What does it mean to surrender, to let go of control, to accept and love and nurture life and everything that comes with it?
When I woke on my birthday, I felt off, and sad. That led to a secondary disappointment: I thought I’d be jumping out of bed, so excited, because I DID IT! I took a suicidal, bipolar, traumatized brain and used all of those pieces to transform into a rainbow pursuer of dreams.
And yet, I felt sad, and off, and heavy. I couldn’t shake the feeling as I drove to my gig, surrounded by the mountains of Salt Lake City, but was excited to get back on the stage, where I connect with myself the most.
And then, I saw the sunflowers. “You did it,” they told me. Love from home, sent all the way to the West ends of the country, a reminder of the work I’ve done, and the work I’m doing.
It’s okay that it felt heavy. It’s okay that there’s more to do. I have loved this whole process of Becoming, the good, the bad, the beautiful, the painful. In truth, I spent fourteen years of my life on-and-off suicidal, thirteen years of my life in and out of traumatic situations, eleven years of my life with fluctuating bipolar episodes, four years of my life in and out of hospitals with one hospitalization at 24 - and one year finding a connection that lets me know every single one of those years, those breakdowns, those suicidal episodes, those moments, was worth it.
I haven’t had a suicidal thought since my 25th birthday. I chose to change my brain, my lifestyle, my habits. And now, I live a life that has all the shit: The breakdowns and the tears and ugh I guess I have to get insurance now because I’m 26 and taxes and loss and heartbreak. The shit doesn’t go away because of mental health recovery - but it just becomes, you know, shit. It isn’t a weight that makes me question my life. It’s a hard situation I know I’ll navigate through - a hard situation worth navigating through to hold the beauty life has to offer.
I swear to you, my beautiful love, you are not alone. You are doing it. You are showing up, and you are here. The amount of time you’ve spent in pain has no reflection on the time you can spend immersing yourself in the beauty. It’s a hard road, and as it grows, it is worth every step and every moment.
Thank you, 25. You were transformative, and I can’t wait to see what 26 brings. You’re right, my Sunflowers from Home. I did it.