Turning 23 was weird. For the past 22 years of my life now, I’ve always felt like my birthday had a real significance. Everything up until 13 was big deal because I was headed towards my teens. 13 was something special because I was an actual teenager by then. 16 was big because I could drive, 18 was huge because I was a legal adult, and 21 was about as big because I could legally drink alcohol- and yes, I actually waited until then to drink, thank you very much. Even 22 last year felt like it mattered because it was the first birthday that I was moving beyond full adulthood and into my 20’s for. Slightly arbitrary, but still.
23 though, eh. It’s something, I enjoyed celebrating for sure, but does it make a difference really? That’s becoming more difficult for me to answer with each passing year now. There's really nothing measurably different about going from 22 to 23 legally, and I don't feel any more advanced mentally or physically and so there's nothing I can point to and say "this specifically has changed".
I've thought on this for a few days now though and I think I've found my own personal answer. 23 is significant not because of any change that happened on the day I completed the year, but due to what I learned and experienced throughout the entire 22nd year of my life. I can't point to any singular event, but rather the whole year has been one of growing and living. I graduated from college, I have a part-time job as a library page now, I've reconnected with old friends, and I've read and seen and played and enjoyed so much, and all of this happened when I was 22.
Now, I think, is a time of self-reflection and realization that 23 is another 22. Just like I did so much then, I can do now, and so 23 is an opportunity as much as it is a transition. Birthdays, more than anything, are now about taking the time to recognize that. And also they're still about eating cake-flavored ice cream, of course. That hasn't changed at all.