Each and every day I try to reflect on my place in space and time. Time makes everything relative, and I often think back about who I was before major life-shaping milestones. This summer I celebrated my 24th birthday and it made me realize that I'm smack in the middle of my young adulthood. Six years ago I was 18, six years from now I'll be 30. And six months ago I was dancing in the sunshine at Bonnaroo with two of my best friends (admittedly, too busy to publish my fleeting thoughts & ideas - but that doesn’t devalue what birthdays mean to me)
Today is my half birthday, and I'm using it as an excuse to publish the realizations I had about myself at the edge of 23. It was an age where in achieved more than I knew possible. More than I was supposed to. More than anyone thought I would. I landed a sweet job in my field with a salary and benefits. I could afford to go to not one, but seven music festivals, plus countless shows - and each blessed me with new connections and rich life experience. Though I was not-quite-an-adult, I was comfortable with my lifestyle for the time being.
When I reached 24, I didn't know what was ahead of me but I already believed in it. It could only go up from here. My optimism was sky high but I was still searching for a sign to help me figure out what to do next as the comfort turned into my usual restlessness.
Just a couple weeks after my birthday, I was faced with an ultimatum. I didn’t have any vacation days left at the job that I loved. My side projects were moving forward, and I was becoming deeply involved. I had to choose to either stay at my job, or go to Colorado to volunteer at Bass Center. The choice was easy, but the consequences were unclear. I decided, rather suddenly, to leave my job and take the path with the life-changing opportunity. It was the most exhilarating and frightening choice I’ve ever made on my own, and I’m still proud of myself for diving headfirst off the edge and never looking back
That choice transformed the way my life would continue. I never would have had the guts, resources, or confidence in myself to do this at 23. But at 24 I became a self-employed marketing entrepreneur. I broke the mold. I had a speck of ground to stand on and I still knew it would work.
It proved that having faith in yourself is sometimes all you need. I felt something else calling me and trusted I could change courses. I rebranded myself, I created my business RJ Manifests, and I signed a lease on a house with an incredibly unstable income. I thought people would say I was crazy, but the outpouring support for my new endeavor was overwhelming. It helped keep me focused. I believed in myself so much that everyone else did too. And guess what? My head is still somehow above water.
Now that I’m standing on the fulcrum of 24, halfway around the sun, I can see everything behind me and in front of me aligned together. And I’m hugging my past self for believing in me too.
One of the most impactful self-realization moments I had this summer was shortly before my birthday, when Bassnectar’s album Unlimited came out. He wrote in a blog post “hopefully these songs will find their way into your lives at the right time, and serve the right purpose, or enrich your journey somehow.” The first time I heard his track “Surrender,” it painted such a deep picture in my soul that it brought me to tears, and it rocked my internal perspective.
I’ve talked about my dualistic personality - about being a gemini and how I connect with having two minds, two souls within me that swing between conflict and harmony. This song made me realize that both selves need to be there for each other, now more than ever, to lift each other up. I needed to let them align so that I could see the path before me, and leave the past behind. My birthday present to myself was a custom painted hat with imagery and lyrics all inspired from that moment and that song
When he dropped Surrender at Bass Center, on my first night working for the team, at a moment I happened to be right in the front middle of the crowd, wearing that hat, it confirmed I was where I was supposed to be. That I had made the right choice. That as long as I followed what the music tells my heart, everything will always be okay.