Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist — slack they may be — these last strands of man
In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
– Gerard Manley Hopkins
A week or so ago I turned 27.
I turned 27 with the sky turned grey and the first rain of the season. I turned 27 with the death notification of a friend I once knew in a different city. I turned 27 on the heels of devastation, wildfire and hurricane. I turned 27 with my country in upheaval, bearing fresh wounds of division. I turned 27 in tears, with questions and fear and doubt rattling in my heart.
And each year the same battle: am I loved? am I worthy of celebration? are these words and gifts and kindnesses sincere?
Of course, yes, the answer is yes. But this year, though these questions feel no less real, they feel trivial held up against the backdrop of current affairs.
Still, everything hinges on the answer. If I do not have love, what do I have? If this love isn’t real, how will I survive another year? How can I love anyone or anything—God, myself, a friend or enemy, a city or nation—if I do not live from a deep knowing that I am loved well, and perfectly?
So I turned 27 with a few of my favorite things: homemade food and handmade things and live music and a live portrait and a fashion show and stars and conversation around a fire.
And it might seem small and it might seem silly but it may actually have been the most important thing, the bravest thing: to trust that I am seen and valued and worthy of love, to give others opportunity to celebrate, not just these beautiful things, but me.
In the face of such darkness, what else could I have done? Each song, each poem, each brush stroke was an act of defiance against the darkness and despair.
So here I am at the start of my 27th year, another year further from birth and another year closer to death. How small life seems–all our life lived in this liminal space, the in-between, held in the balance between birth and death, earth and heaven.
And in this space where death presses in, what else can I do but press back, let the light within me leak out and brighten a little darkness?
So this year, my 27th year, I have resolved to say no more to despair, and yes, I can, even if, like Hopkins, the only words that rise to my lips are I can; can…something…
What I can do is this: I can get out of bed each morning. I can choose to be brave. I can speak with kindness and sincerity. I can find beauty in unlovely places. I can love this world as no one has thought to love it. I can dream up a more beautiful future, a more compassionate world, and believe there is grace within me to create what I long for.
I can choose to trust in a love that is new for me every morning, and trust that the boundaries of this love extend everywhere I go.
Yes, I am 27 and I don’t have to live in despair. I am 27 and I can.