I suppose I thought I’d dread this birthday. 25 has always sounded much older to me. 24 sounds fresh, youthful and free. But 25 is the beginning of my mid-twenties. And there is a wiser, maturity that comes with that. This feels deep. This feels like the first blank page of a new chapter in my spiritual and self-development journey. A wistful departure from my earlier years of backpacking across Asia and Europe, thrilling tales of my NYC adventures and the myriad of young, female friendships that while fun and lively, weren’t meant to extend through adulthood. 24 was the beginning of that, but 25 feels so damn official.
I coincidentally watched the newest Netflix film Someone Great the evening prior, and it reminded me of my early twenties. The career confusion, the wild rollercoaster of emotions, the casual dating, the experimenting, the long nights in Manhattan. It reminded me of my youth and how far away from my life has naturally drifted and evolved into a new chapter.
And while many parts of my life are great, there is still much that I do not know, but despite alllllll the good and messy and complicated parts of my 25 years thus far, none of that matters.
Right now, as I scribble this, I am on a train through the Puglia region of Southern Italy. 20 minutes ago I was bothered by something. 20 minutes from now I’ll be in a different feeling, a different place and a different moment in time – probably exploring the beach of Polignano de Mare.
But right now, in this very moment, there is a quiet stillness humming softly within me. Right now I feel immense gratitude for everything in my life that has led to this exact moment for it has all unfolded exactly as it should.
And it always will.
Trust and Acceptance are two concepts that took half of my twenties to master. I was introduced to learning these at 20, challenged and awakened between 21 and 23, and it deepened and clarified at 24.
Now at 25, I truly know, understood, and consistently feel these concepts on a daily basis. I feel immense trust all the time. Trust in the Universe, trust in my faith, trust in others, and trust that everything in life is based on divine timing and how you look at it. Trust that everything, everything, will be okay.
I have also learned unconditional acceptance. Accepting all that is. (If you’re curious, this book is what transformed my ideas on acceptance.)
In this new chapter of my mid-twenties, I would like to learn true “release.” I would also like to master the art of “consistency” in my creative endeavors daily. Whether that be expressed through writing, painting, photography or poetry, I want to practice taking a single step each and every day. To consistently double check and review. To consistency show up. To consistently take the time to create at the pleasure of my soul. For expressing my spirit’s desires is never a day wasted.
I got married to my best friend, I traveled to so many wonderful places in the world and moved to France. I learned plenty of new words and voraciously read plenty of books. I discovered new passions that I want to pursue further. I’ve learned, I’ve implemented, and I wrote. I kept up with this beloved blog that is so near and dear to my heart, and I continued to pursue creative photography projects that inspire and motivate me to get out of my photography rut.
There were also feelings of guilt, pride, regret, joy, peace, and immense love. Life is not black nor white, but a swirling grey of depth, emotion, and complexity, and I embrace all of it.
It has been a glorious year, and 25 – I feel – will be just as pleasurable and growth-filled.
I never would have thought that the girl I met that cold January day in 2015 carrying the diet coke purse would end up meaning so much to me, or the extent to which I had just embarked on an exhilarating journey that would last me the rest of my life. Helena was sporting a leather jacket covered in pins of different feminist movements the day I met her, and in retrospect, I guess I should have realized how much of a roller coaster knowing her would be.
Helena is a light. She has this certain energy about her, a smile that lights up the room like a photography flash, and everyone takes notice. For those few that don’t, her clamorous voice and resounding laughter are sure to finish the job.
The day I met her was no exception. When I first met her eyes and was flashed that brilliant smile, I knew that I was dealing with an exuberance of energy, warmth, and good will. Even her name, Helena, comes from Greek and means light. If any name was apt, it would be that one.
Knowing Helena has been such a blessing, not only because of how easily her laughter comes or how fun she is to spend time with. Knowing Helena has also been such a blessing because of her mad flurry of ideas, her ambitious drive and endless courage and the challenge that comes from being with someone so different from myself.
Helena was in the acting realm when I met her, and I had just started my master’s in teaching ESL. We were worlds apart, a void that only online dating platforms could have bridged. Because we are so different, times aren’t always easy. Our perspectives on life often clash, as do some of our behaviors and some minor values. But it is because she is so different that I appreciate her so much.
Helena is the type of person who yells at pigeons for being mean to other pigeons. Who pays for a parasail experience while on a ferry without asking the price or the time. Who tries to find parent ducks when she finds ducklings floating down the river alone. She’s the type of person who needs to be sprayed water on her face at noon because she still hasn’t woken up yet, and who will ask you philosophical questions at 3am about what people like about Disney that makes it so popular. She’s the type of person to stick her thumb out and hitchhike in a foreign country just to have an “authentic experience.” She will squeal in delight and when you turn to look at what she’s excited about, you’ll find her hugging a tree or sniffing an unassuming flower along the road. She’s delightful yet exhausting, hilarious and always unexpected. After nearly 5 years together, she still keeps me on my toes.
So when she asked me to marry her on a roller coaster in Disneyworld, how could I not say yes? It was the best decision I’ve ever made.
We lived together for the first time when she was 23, but were married in her 24th year of life, the one that is now transitioning into her 25th today. Living with Helena…isn’t always easy. It means following a trail of clothes from the entryway to the couch as she took them off successively and finding her curled up with a book. It’s finding a sink full of dishes, a plethora of colorful pillows everywhere, and walls covered in ripped out magazine pages that she finds inspiring or post-it notes with weekly business to-dos.
But living with Helena also means laughing constantly, always talking, and always pondering life’s biggest questions.
When she asked me to travel the world, I said yes. And we moved to France to begin an incredible adventure and experience living abroad as expats—even though she didn’t speak a lick of French and would be limited with work opportunities.
In her 24th year of life we experienced the thrill and hardship of spending almost 2 months of our honeymoon in the environment of a developing country. We’ve also traveled to countless countries in Europe, each one with its unique experience.
I witnessed her joy in taking a picture of a spontaneous proposal in from of the Neuschwanstein castle in Germany, of grimacing with disgust after trying my beer in Munich’s Oktoberfest, of melting at the taste of fresh Italian cheese in Bari, and rocking out to Disneyland queue music while we drove through thunderstorms in the heart of Spain. Traveling by itself is an enriching experience, but it wouldn’t nearly be as enriching or spontaneous without Helena.
I consider myself so lucky to be the man who gets to spend the rest of his life with the wonderful Helena Woods, and I love her so very dearly. She has both taught and reminded me the meaning of living life to its fullest ability, one without regrets and filled with bravery and revelry.
So to you, dear Helena, have an incredible Happy Birthday, and I can’t wait to see what more our future holds with all these wonderful things we have already experienced behind us. You are a true light in this world, and I love you very much.
Your Husband Alex
May 17, 2019
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