I suppose this has turned into a tradition of charting my course over the years as a continually evolving reaction to change. I often run up against the sentiment that “a lot has changed in the past year,” but I can’t help thinking that it holds true for the past twelve months, even more so for this past summer. I’m reading parts of Sara Ahmed’s Queer Phenomenology as a recommendation from a dear friend, and I’ve spent some time with the question: what does it mean to redirect one’s own orientations, especially in relation to time and the future?

This was perhaps the most subdued of celebrations—not that I had anything very flamboyant to begin with, except that one time with the magician and the puppies. Childhood birthday parties are nuts! But anyhow, I’d spent the past summer watching friends turn twenty-one, posting photos and videos of their parties, and attending a few myself. I never quite figured out how to parse that fine line between birthdays as masks for elaborate social gatherings versus birthdays as personally intimate markers of one’s life. Maybe it isn’t one or the other; maybe they’re intertwined.

There are the perks of adulthood: being able to drink, gamble, none of which I’m particularly fond of or interested in. But I think there’s something to be said about the whole “tradition” of turning twenty-one and the accompanying rituals that follow it—people across the country (and the world) partaking in similar activities, delights, and events, marking a departure from all that held them back in the past. It warms my heart. Even if my twenty-first is not mind-blowing or immediately formative—at least, not yet—perhaps, to someone else, their twenty-first is the best thing that’s happened to them thus far in their life. That’s enough of a gift to make me smile.

And perhaps the meaningful revelation that I’ve come across is recognizing where life has placed me; where I am now, in relation to where I was last year. (Isn’t it odd how we talk about points in time using terms of distance and space?). Twelve months ago, I couldn’t point toward where I was heading, nor could I articulate where I wished to go. Now, I have a slightly clearer view of the land before me, and it has remained within sight, glimmering softly like a wet November road in light.