Last Thursday, I silently turned 27.
For a person who likes attention as much as I do, it was a very uncharacteristic birthday.
There were no bells, no whistles, no intricately-planned guest list, nor even a birthday cake. This birthday was one of reflection.
While it wasn't the party I am used to, I took away many meaningful lessons.
One thing I came to appreciate is the healing power of family. Five days before my birthday, I had a chance to travel home to Virginia and see my parents for the first time in more than a year.
A lot of things have changed. In the past year, my mother had received bariatric surgery, and was more than 50 pounds slimmer; my father had gotten a promotion, and the reliable, wood-framed television that weighed 1,000 pounds, and watched me grow up, was replaced with a sleek, high-definition television with digital-video recording capabilities.
While the home I came back to looked less like the one I knew growing up, it was still the same loving refuge I have always relied on.
My mother and I played our traditional game of Scrabble as we always do when we are together. Over stewed crabs legs, she listened to my dreams, triumphs and disappointments. My father and I watched movies, while he talked about life in simple, blunt terms I have come to appreciate more as an adult.
When I was in high school, thinking about how I would make my impact on the world, I never imagined the difficult challenges I would face in the process. While I only had a few days to be home, it reminded me how much I am loved, and that no matter the difficulties, my family will be there for me.
The next thing I learned is that it is not all about you.
On Saturday, two days after my birthday, one of my oldest female friends got married. In middle school, I was Doug Funnie and she was my Patti Mayonnaise. This was a person who I grew up with, went to my first dance with, the first person I fell in love with, and the first person to tell me we should just be friends.
When I got invited to the wedding, it wasn't the easiest thing to hear. A younger me may have made up some kind of excuse not to go, but the 27-year-old me told me that a part of myself would always regret not being there.
I drove for hours and across two state lines to be at the wedding, not knowing what to expect or how I would feel. When I got there, however, my mind cleared and the thoughts, "It's not about you," and, "Your time will come," entered my head.
I knew that God was telling me to grow up, and at that moment, I did. At that moment, I knew that God would provide me the desires of my heart in His perfect timing. In the end, the wedding was fine and I was glad to be a part of the next stage of my friend's life.
The final lesson I took away was to appreciate the present. Earlier this year, my younger sister became pregnant for the first time. On Saturday night, I got to see her belly for the first time, carrying the child who will soon be my new nephew.
Time has flown by so quickly, and as a child, I never imagined that I would, one day, be looking at the next generation.
It made me feel older, really older, for the first time, and it made me realize that I need to focus on enjoying now, instead of worrying about what lies ahead.
While there was no cake this year, the lessons I learned were just as sweet.
Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.