This is what your twenty-sixth birthday looks like: you’re forlornly sitting on the Chinatown bus you boarded in DC, which is crossing the bridge over the Hudson River into the city just as the sun is setting. It’s one of those endless autumn sunsets where the whole world glows red and orange, and a faint violet hue hovers around the edges. As you watch the Isle of Manhattan draw closer, the entire city seems incandescent. For the past three and half hours, you’ve been feeling down about your birthday, about the youth that is slipping away from you at a quicker pace each and every day. But then “Diamonds” comes on the radio and the city is shimmering before you and, for a moment, you feel content because you know that you are in the right place; you know that this city is exactly where you are supposed to be as you begin your twenty-sixth year of life.
But you have absolutely no idea why. In this instant you think you know why you’re meant to be in this exact city at this exact time but you have no clue. None at all. And you won’t know until three days later when you take the Q to the L to the Lorimer stop in Williamsburg and your life changes forever. There you happen to meet someone who, for reasons you will likely never be able to fully articulate, restores your faith in humanity. A person who makes you inexplicably happy, who makes you feel less alone. A person who has the courage to be precisely who they are, to openly discuss their faults and how those faults impact others and what steps they’re taking to address those faults. It’s this courage that makes you feel brave enough to be precisely who you are, that makes you feel as if growing older isn’t so terrible after all. Instead, this person you meet at the start of twenty six makes you realize that each and every day is an opportunity for change, a chance to become a better person, to become more like him.
On your actual birthday, however, you have no idea that this person is the reason you’re living in the very city you’re returning to this very minute, your heart full of gratitude.