By Maena St. Paul

For as long as I can remember, there was something about turning twenty six that made my heart expand a little.

and I could never put my finger on it but I covered it up in skirt stories and dressed up dreams

so that maybe it would be the year all my efforts and hopes and wishes would be knocking on my door, asking if they could come home to me.

I figured the feeling swelling up inside my chest was my spirit telling me the best part of my story was tucked away into those 365 pages.

That every reason I ever needed to feel significant was somewhere in that year.

So you can imagine how far down of a fall it was to wake up one day in this hollow space,

gnawing at me because it didn’t fill up the way I thought it would’ve by now.

That at twenty six, all my plans were slow to be.

And for weeks, I could not shake the disappointment in my hands for not working hard enough or in my heart for letting the fire go out one too many times.

I remember telling a close friend that it wasn’t supposed to be this way.

there were things—makeshift items—that were supposed to be checked off by now,

as if my life was dependent on this supermassive to-do list in order to be considered necessary.

But despite all my best efforts to believe that lie,

I knew that I didn’t deserve to live in self-imposed disappointment.

So I made a new list.

25 proofs of how I lived well this past year. 

And could you believe I found them all in less than a day.

Because even if what we thought should have happened by now hasn’t,

that doesn’t mean the days haven’t been successful.

It doesn’t mean growth never came back.

We walk around with a measuring stick,

held up against all the ‘well done’s people hand out over the years like flyers,

when really, the measure should be held around the size of our hearts.

Have we filled them with every lesson born of our mistakes?

Are we carrying each day inside our chest cavity,

making room for every time we had enough courage to say I’m sorry

or me too

or I love you?

I look back and know that where I’m standing today is living proof that if you decide it is more about the people around you than it is about the way you feel,

you’ll find more purpose in who you are

and less in what you do.

There’s something fierce and firm about knowing the kind of life you want to live,

and not wanting anything more or less. 

It’s like carrying a fire behind your knees,

urging you to run wildly towards the only thing that has ever made sense,

the constant reason.

And I don’t know what that is for you,

but my hope is that you’d seek it out relentlessly.

And when you finally find it,

plant it like a mustard seed

and don’t ever stop tending to its tree

no matter how big it grows.

Because I swear to you,

there will come a day when you are exhausted

and all you’ll be looking for

is some shade to catch your breath,

and when you look to your left and to your right at all the people you have loved on the way,

you’ll be glad that you never stopped trying.

 Maena St. Paul

Maena St. Paul