The Part Where We Move Forward

by P. Braithwaite


On my thirtieth birthday, I took myself to dinner. After a major minor freak-out about the end of an era, I settled into the idea that aging was probably better than death, and planned to meet friends at a rooftop bar in NYC.

But I wanted to treat myself to a birthday dinner first. Exclusive. Alone. An audience of me. I had a vision of me dressed up, sitting accross from no one, with a glass of Pinot Nior and a half-cooked steak dinner.

Happiness is enjoying a meal alone.

When I told my friends the plan, they nodded sympathetically and asked if I needed company. They assumed I was sad because I wanted to be alone. I declined their offers. They insisted.

“No,” I said firmly. “I’m good.”

And it’s true. I was good.

I don’t have any sweeping insights on what it means to be thirty. I’m still single. I’m still broke, and cute boys still hurt my feelings. I still cry when I’m sad or overwhelmed. What I do know, however, is I spent most of my twenties ‘working on myself.’ I spent most of the last decade pulling at threads of self and watching memories unfurl. I spent hours in therapy, in silence, or on retreat. I spent years of my life in school trying to be a writer, and in self-help books trying to resolve the past — trying to fix myself, so that I could finally grant myself permission to be happy…as I am.

My thirties, thus far, have been more about enjoyment. There’s still work, but ‘the work’ is in service of more enjoyment. I’m doing what needs doing, so that I can enjoy my what needs enjoying: more dinners spent alone, more trips to awesome places, more late-night conversations with people who inspire and ignite, more energy….more unabashed pleasure…more grace…more laughter…more life.

More ways of growing and experiencing myself.

Happiness, I suspect, is learning to enjoy your…self.

I’m still writing on crowded trains, still working on ‘the book,’ but instead of stressing out, some days can I actually look up and smile at a cute guy several seats away. I’m learning to smile at hot strangers. I’m learning to smile at myself. I’m learning that they’re one-in-the-same.

There will always be more work: issues to examine, messes to clean up, and greatness to step into just beyond our line of site. Lord knows my poor diet needs attention, and I’m struggling with what it means to be black… I’m trying to live up to my own ambition…but also: there’s this day…this moment…this hour…rife with pleasures both miraculous and mundane. An awesome song I’ve never heard is playing in Starbucks…and this barista made my chai latte with the right amount of foam…

So, forgive me, but I don’t want to examine myself right now…I prefer to lose myself instead.

And so it is.

Phot Credit: Ryan McGuire, Bells Design.