Gratitude. I turned twenty today. I feel 18 much like I did yesterday. Except, reflecting on the last year, this is the one word that I feel most completely sums up how I feel- gratitude. 42 people have posted Happy birthday on my Facebook timeline as I write this. Another two have just posted, so make that 44. Is that the metric by which I should measure the connections and friendships I have made in the last 20 years? Each of those 44 messages is someone wishing me well. Each Facebook message, each Whatsapp message, each Skype call, each hurried whisper and smile, it’s feeling, communicated. I am incredibly grateful for the people and connections I’ve made in my last 20 years. The thought and the effort to translate that feeling into words means an incredible lot to me.

In a conversation with a friend a few days ago, I shared an anecdote I’d read somewhere. It went something like this.

“If I live to be 80, today I have used up a quarter of my life.””

How many people’s lives have I touched positively? How many trajectories have I altered in the positive, because that is what all our lives boil down to ultimately- it is our legacy. How many people will look back at the times I met them and say they gained something that day? That will decide whether or not I’ve led a meaningful life.

If I live to be 80, I have been so stupid these first 20 that I have hardly understood the concept of time and how little of it I have. I have made and broken friendships on a whim. I have taken everything for granted. I’ve been a child so my excuse is - I haven’t had the means to cause much actual change. Not the education, not the imagination, not the capacity to do much either even if I had. I have been a child. Naive. Dreamy. Happy. No one deserves to grow up. Children want only to grow up, and the grown up want to live their childhoods again.

If I live to be 80, I have been sleeping for 20 of those remaining 60 years. Sleeping through a third of these most “productive” years. I have not been meeting people. I have not been creating anything, but imaginary worlds and dreams. I have been awake for only 40 years.

If I live to be 80, I have been eating and talking and worrying aimlessly for 8 of the 40 years I have been awake. I have been truly productive for only 32. Productive. What does that mean? Does it mean being at work, or creating something meaningful with what I have? I like this last bit-”creating something meaningful with what I have.” The adverse environment we are all growing up in, a global recession, and closer to home, an economy walking on stilts in high heels, we have to rethink what productivity is. Having a job isn’t necessarily doing a good job. Being at work isn’t doing good work. When we can’t find work, my generation shall have to make work, and to make things that work.

If I live to be 80, I have met people, and touched people’s lives for 80 years. Since before I could speak, I have inspired my parents’ dreams and my siblings’ nightmares. I have made friends, and brothers and sisters out of strangers. I have been productive. I have enabled and been enabled. Empowered and been empowered. I have been alive.

If I live to be 80, these are the thoughts I begin my twenties with. The optimism of childhood, and the determination of adulthood. My brother tells me these shall be my best years. My best life. I agree with him. My sister tells me these shall be my only years. My only life. To use it purposefully. And with gratitude.

If this touched you, please share, or reach out to me to talk about it! And check out my other writing here This is the only thank you I need.