What's different about 23? Let me tell you a story, not for any sort of sympathy, but so that you understand the importance of today.
When I was 16, my mom and my best friend threw me a huge Finding Nemo surprise party. It had family and friends from all my different activities... school, dancing, color guard, camp. Everyone was there. I was quite sick, but that aside, it was amazing.
Several months later, that same best friend and I were talking online, and she told me to stop talking and quit responding to me (I was confused). We were supposed to go to a party that night, and she didn't pick me up. My best friend that I had spent every day with (vacations aside) for 12 years, for the next year and a half, never called again. When I called her a year and a half after the initial incident, she (frighteningly calmly) said the meanest thing I could ever imagine a person saying, and then meaner. I was bawling, and she hung up on me. That was the end of that.
My closest (and only) friend in college knew this story and promised that it would not repeat itself. It didn't, until she broke up with her fiance and got a new boyfriend and just... went away. Walked away from me on the sidewalk one day (I was on crutches, going slow), with the boy, and never walked back. When asked what was going on, also said some extremely mean things. Again, that was that.
If you're wondering why I don't think Leigh will do the same thing, you don't know Leigh. I mean, there's a lways the tiniest fear in the back of my mind (like, I fear checking my email because I might get a "I don't want to be friends with you" email... but Leigh just would never do that and it's illogical to think she would).
Anyway, back to my story. I think birthdays are the greatest thing in the world. It's a day to celebrate... me! I'm not a big fan of celebrating myself, because I'm shy and rather uncomfortable in my own skin, on other days, so I take full advantage of my birthday. I'm bad at waiting for people to call and give me birthday wishes... instead, I tend to call them because I'm so excited that it's my birthday! Not everyone, but definitely immediate family (just called Dad: "Hey, I'm supposed to call you on your birthday!"). It's a day I can drink as much diet soda as I want, eat whatever I feel like, and bug the kitty as much as I wish. It's my day.
My last 6 birthdays have been spent with my mom, mostly. Last year I actually had surgery on December 8th, so I was drugged and laying on the couch. But I had invited my whole Mom's side of the family over to celebrate, and they all sat on the floor and fussed over me, and I thought life couldn't get any better than that birthday.
Until this year. This year, today, I am going out with friends. H and L, two women in my church, are taking me to an old fashioned ice cream shop downtown. Then, tonight, my giant Bible study is meeting at someone's house to watch a movie (L is curbing my anxiety by picking me up and going in with me and staying with me, so I'll be fine). In between, I will go to Mom's work to be with my mom on my birthday, because that's the most important.
I don't know how to explain the gravity of this event. Friends. I have friends. Friends who are used to melt downs because their kids have them, who are used to anxiety, who don't mind my oddities and social awkwardness. Friends who seek me out and invite me over. Friends who take me out on my birthday. Although ice cream is a huge plus, I almost don't care what we do. Just being with my friends is more than I could hope for.