So, it’s your birthday? It’s my birthday, too, yeah (couldn’t resist). Getting older is a drag, isn’t it? Well, I say, “No.” I like the me I am today…much better than the person I was ten or even twenty five years ago, which raises an interesting question. Do we change that much over time? I think it’s more like what Anne Rice wrote in The Vampire Lestat, “None of us really changes over time. We only become more fully what we are.”
When I was a teen, I loved Anne Rice’s vampire novels (long before the dawn of Twilight). I used to imagine what it would be like to willfully take a cold dirt nap that lasted for years at a time. I wished I could live forever, walking the earth through the centuries as history unfolded before my eyes. I’m reminded of a New Order song from that time period (the mid 80’s) called Paradise that goes, “If we left this town, we could walk the earth together…” Anyway, I imagined what I would learn and how I would grow as the eons passed, AND I wondered how I would stay the same. When I was 16, it seemed very very important to be immortal. On most days I half suspected that I was impervious to death. Thankfully, I never tried to test this theory.
As a teen, I felt that everything was vivid and special and rare and important. Something scribbled on my classroom desk by its previous occupant, such as a misquoted line from a Led Zeppelin song, was to be contemplated, dissected and re-imagined. A meaningless glance from a boy in the hall could be the start of some monumentally romantic entanglement-unlike anything that had happened before to anyone on the planet-ever. Never did I dismiss anything as a chance encounter or a disposable thought. I spoke entirely in superlatives and believed in the gospel of extremes. All of my very special thoughts were preserved in a journal with elaborate cursive handwriting, and rarely shared with anyone, especially adults.
Around this same time I got my driver’s license and bought a ’73 Volkswagen Super Beetle (my very first car), which provided me with my first taste of freedom. I could point my little red car in any direction, turn on my favorite radio station, and drive until I felt like stopping. Only I didn’t really know where to go or how to get there. I had no GPS, no cell phone, and no plan. The truth is I was scared to death of being out in the real world, because I didn’t know what might happen (or, more importantly, how to handle it). The farthest I ever got was Little Five Points, but that’s another story.
You know how some people always seem to have all the answers? Well, that wasn’t me. I was shy, awkward, insecure, anxious and nerdy. I dreamed of being popular, cool, calm, interesting, well dressed, etc. I think that’s why being a vampire was so appealing. What would high school matter, if I could run faster than a bullet shot out of a gun? Why would I care about being popular, if I knew I would outlive everyone who didn’t speak to me at school by a thousand years? I would never be weak, or sick, or unattractive, or afraid again. I could get in my car and drive across the country without a moment’s hesitation. Everyone would be inexplicably drawn ever closer to me, and I would have to put forth no effort. Maybe, I thought that if I was immortal, I could outlast all of my problems. Well, needless to say, I never ran across a vampire on a moonlit night, while walking alone with the alabaster skin of my young tender neck exposed to the slings and arrows and fangs of outrageous fortune.
So, you’re probably wondering what birthdays and vampires have in common. Well, probably very little, actually. As the saying goes, you’re really only born once, everything after that is just an anniversary (I imagine the same is true for vampires). Vampires live forever, and humans for the blink of an eye. Maybe vampires over time forget what it means to be human, just as humans forget what it means to be young.
Have I really changed over time? No. I think not. What happens to a person over a lifetime is kind of like what happens to the space shuttle upon reentry into the earth’s atmosphere. We experience great wonder and then we return to the beginning, different, yet somehow the same. We are refined by the fire of time multiplied by experience. All that is superfluous has been burned away in a beautiful and terrifying flame without mercy. I am thankful that mercy is absent. For what kind of rough edges would I now have, if the flame were withheld from me on occasion? As Anne Rice also wrote when chronicling the “lives” of vampires, “It’s an awful truth that suffering can deepen us, give a greater lustre to our colours, a richer resonance to our words.”
So, perhaps I am more lustrous and resonant in my fourth decade of roaming the earth, yet fundamentally the same. For the most part, I find it difficult to be fearful or insecure these days, as I (most of the time) realize that it serves no purpose. I rarely compare myself to others, as I am glad to be on a journey like no other. The other day my sister said, “Kimmie, you always did want everybody to be happy.” That meant the world to me. First, because she made such a kind observation about me; and second, because she used the word ALWAYS. Being a counselor at Life Skills Resource Group in Orlando gives me new opportunities each day to live out the purpose of my life, the one that has evidently been with me since the beginning.
So, happy birthday, I mean anniversary to me and to you. Congratulations on becoming more yourself every day.
If you feel like you’ve lost your way and need a little help getting on that path back to you, give me our any of my lovely colleagues from the Our Team page a call. Namaste. Oh, and by the way, I am no longer interested in being a vampire. I’m a vegetarian, and not the Twilight kind.
To Contact: TherapistKimMurphy@gmail.com