In a few hours, I'll be 41.
Big freakin' deal.
I mean, who gets excited about 41 ?
40? Yes. That was huge. I remember the weeks leading up to my 40th birthday and obsessing about whether I "looked 40" or "acted 40" or "accomplished enough at 40." But, 41?
Now, don't get me wrong. Lots has happened in that year leading up to 41. I earned my Ph.D.; my partner and I sold our house; we designed and built a new house; we survived living with my parents for 2 1/2 months (thanks Mom and Dad); I took my own advice and leaped out of my comfort zone professionally and personally; and I had an overall pretty good year.
But, this year leading up to 41 -- It was also the year that my father-in-law went home to God, and it was a time when we focused on building connections and relationships with family. My relationship with my mother-in-law has never been stronger, and my heart is both heavy and full with the love that her husband had for her and his sons.
In the weeks leading up to my 41st birthday, I made a commitment. I made the commitment to run 41 miles (total). Over the year, I had gained weight due to a long commute, a new job, and, frankly, some incredibly gourmet lunches on the daily. I spent the summer focusing on my health and wellness, and kicked some serious asphalt in the process.
The 4:45am wake up call and the 5:15am run were good for my body, but the time to focus on peace was what I treasured the most. During those runs, I talked to my father-in-law. I said, "Good morning, Pops" and told him all about what had gone on that day. As I witnessed the sunrise transition into daylight, I imagined him dancing with God. Truth, I never really talked that much to him when he was here with us on Earth; but I found talking to him on these runs to be so beautiful.
Day by day and week by week, as I reflected on his life, I began to see my own life change.
My father in law was committed to peace and justice through Faith. He often said, "You can't just be a person of good Faith; you have to be a person of good use." When Hurricane Sandy devastated his neighborhood, he didn't run off to seek shelter and warmth; he stayed and served people even though he did not have the resources to serve himself. When the killing of Trayvon Martin sparked national attention about the violence towards Black people in our country, he traded his pressed suit on the pulpit for a grey, worn out, hooded sweatshirt. When we drove the long hours to visit with him and his wife in New York, he was often in his room preparing a sermon or organizing a community event or finding ways to support the people in the community.
In 1992, I turned 18. Huge party, big celebration, and major milestone. In 1993, I turned 19. Not as big a deal. No big party. No big, "you're an adult now" kind of talk. It was just, well, it was just 19. The number 19 meant nothing, really.
Now that he is with God, I find myself rethinking what "19" means. I used to feel like "19" was the hangover from turning 18. But, for me, "19" marks the number of years that Pop was in my life. In 1997, Jorge and I got engaged. That was 19 years ago. Nineteen years ago, Jorge's dad became my dad.
And, on the eve of turning 41, I'm having those same feelings -- that 41 is actually more important than I had given it credit. My 41st year is one that I commit to being not only a person of Faith but a person of Use. How might I use my own agency, my own desire, my own awareness of injustice in this world and put myself to use?
At work, my husband, Jorge, is known for his hastag: #makethingsbetter. While the community has attributed this saying to Jorge, he revealed that it was his Pop that taught him how to #makethingsbetter by living a life of purpose and use.
Forty-one is no longer "the year after 40."
I turn 41 in the year that my father-in-law, through God's will, has told me that "it's time to put your Faith to Use."
Forty-one is my call to action.
Forty-one is my call to Use.
How might you turn your awareness of injustice in our world and put yourself to use? How will you make this year of your life as celebratory and as important as every other?
Peace and power,