It’s My Birthday and I’ll Cry If I Want To

Oh, Timehop, never letting a past moment slip by us in this digital age. I checked it when I woke up this morning to find a video from my last birthday of my family singing to me– my Dad’s voice overpowering everybody’s. I cried and all I could think was, he should be here right now.

It feels like I’m just waiting for him to come home from work and things will go as normal. For every birthday in my house we have a small ice cream cake, and sing– the whole shebang. I imagine this was my Dad’s idea because he gets as excited about birthdays as I do (which more people should do… ugh) but anyway, we do it every year, every birthday, without fail.

I’m twenty-three and I want to live up to myself and who I was raised to be. I want to be more accountable, more motivated… I want to make a difference without shrinking back. I’m using this day as a reason to do that– a chance to commit to myself in ways I haven’t previously and a chance to look at myself objectively.

I’ve learned so much since my Dad got sick which sounds cliche but I’ve been witness to and involved in so many things that were just full of extremities. I’ve been trying to figure this whole thing out openly and vulnerably. Especially through writing.

I’m so bad at giving myself credit for anything. My Dad always said, “why can’t you admit you are good at something?” He’s right… I run. I hide. (I have gotten better) but I so quickly let my self-esteem drop to the floor and run away from total fear of being successful. Which is so goddamn selfish and I get so mad at myself every time I do it.

How can I be a vessel for good if I don’t allow myself to be a vessel at all?

In the words of Hannah Brencher, “don’t let the universe regret you,” and today is the day I hold myself accountable to not let that happen. Today is the day I will break the cycle of thinking well… maybe I’m not good enough and thinking, hey, I am good enough if I allow myself to be. If we can give so many other people credit for what they’re good at, why can’t we give ourselves that same recognition? Why does it have to be selfish to think positively of ourselves? It doesn’t have to be. Negativity only catalyzes negativity, and we can’t be at our best if we don’t try.

I’m surrounded by more people in my life who support me than I’ve ever been– more than I would l say that I deserve but it must be happening for a damn reason. I want to admit my faults and fix them. I am vulnerable, and I’m fearful, and I run away from what I’m good at. I feel like I just exhaled a twenty-three year long breath.

I recognize it is okay if I’m uncertain because I’m pretty sure oftentimes, most of us are but that shouldn’t stop us from giving life our best shot. That’s really what it’s about. There is no security. I’ve seen that in its most unforgiving nature: death. But one thing my Dad did do that I can do is be passionate and eager and actively participate– and not quit, because that’s not who I am.

He’d tell me to get out of bed, to stop hiding and trying to sort things out on my own. He’d tell me to show up and be accountable. Even if that means admitting that maybe today I’m not feeling up to myself, or that I’m sad, or tired– those “ugly” things that make us human aren’t meant to manifest below the surface where no-one can see them and tear us apart. How can anybody know how we’re feeling if we don’t speak? They’re meant to make us relatable. They’re meant to make us ask for help when we need it. They’re meant to tell us we’re alive. They don’t have to be weaknesses.

This past week, I’ve been doing a lot of hiding and reflecting. I’ve been afraid of what the world is going to be like without my Dad, even though I’m already living in it. I don’t want to be one of those people who lets life meander on by because they’re too afraid to be who they are. I don’t want the universe to regret me.

I’ve never seen my Dad more proud of me than when I started working for Feminist Wednesday and Dream, Girl. When I became Editor in Chief of Feminist Wednesday and Erin sent me flowers to congratulate me, my Dad was so fucking proud of me for doing what I love and for believing in myself. He said, “this is the opportunity of a lifetime,” and in that moment I couldn’t have been more proud of myself to know he’s goddamn right and I actually earned it. I lived up to myself. It is an honor to be in the position I am in and it is an honor to have two of the most important figures in my life see that in me.

That’s what I want twenty-three to be about.

Alicia Napierkowski is a freelance writer and designer. She has been published in The Huffington Post, Thought Catalog, as well as across Medium. You can find a complete list of her work at alicianapierkowski.com.
Say hello:
alicia.napierkowski@gmail.com.

writer. reporter. calligrapher. words: The New York Times, Teen Vogue, HelloGiggles, Shape, & more. aliciamnapierkowski.com | alicia.napierkowski@gmail.com

writer. reporter. calligrapher. words: The New York Times, Teen Vogue, HelloGiggles, Shape, & more. aliciamnapierkowski.com | alicia.napierkowski@gmail.com