Mari Katherine Raftopoulos: 1 more candle, 1 more wish |

Mari Katherine Raftopoulos: 1 more candle, 1 more wish

Mari Katherine Raftopoulos

Today marks 22 candles on the birthday cake this year. I am anxiously awaiting the moment to blow out the candles on my birthday cake, even though I have never really liked birthday cake.

So instead, I will be blowing out 22 candles on my mom’s infamous éclair cake, in honor of her and her love for birthdays, but mostly in honor of a new year.

Yes I am the girl who searches for an eyelash on her cheekbone just to blow it away and make a wish. I am the one who will sit for hours on the front porch longing for a shooting star because I believe it might have the power to change my luck. The girl who will never walk under a ladder or open an umbrella indoors.

And, even at 22 years old, I am still the girl who can’t wait for the moment to close my eyes, inhale, exhale and extinguish the flames of last year. At 22 years old, I still make wishes. These wishes keep me dreaming big.

When I was young, I would wish for my crush to like me back. I would wish for a Barbie Hot Wheels convertible, or for my family to go to Disney World, just once.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

But today, my wish will be much different and unique. I will wish that — well never mind I can’t tell you because then it won’t come true, right?

Today I am one year older. I remember when I turned 16, 18 and 21, which are considered pivotal years in one’s life. The years when you can finally drive aimlessly around town on a Friday night without your parents, buy cigarettes because you’re an adult or bring a bottle of wine that you purchased with your ID to a friend’s dinner party. You can do all of this if you want because you are of age.

You know how people ask if you feel different on your birthday.

Do you feel older?

Do you feel wiser?

Do you feel smarter?

Whether it is a bit of sarcasm or not, with all of those new freedoms that came with a new age and year, I always felt the same at ages 16, 18 and 21.

But this year and this birthday, ask me if I feel different and I will tell you that I will never be the same.

My 21st year gave me a college diploma, another torn ACL and a life-changing loss. And at the same time, my 21st year gave me an education that nothing can ever take away, a great appreciation for health and a year with a woman who is irreplaceable.

Ask me if I feel older and I will tell you at least 10 years. Maybe it is all my experiences that make me feel this way.

I have the energy of a teenager, the to-do list of a middle-aged mother and the traveling bug of a 20-year-old foreign exchange student. I have an adoration for fine wines, romantic yet spontaneous dates, and long walks on the beaten trails of a park, like a woman in her late 20s.

And, I have the experience in overcoming hardships, unanswered prayers and unexplainable tragedies like, well, a 22-year-old.

Ask me if I feel older, wiser and smarter and I will tell you yes. But ask me if I would wish to change this past year if I could and I will tell you never.

Because I wouldn’t have this energy, this to-do list, this traveling bug, this wine list, this experience and this growth.

And for me, that wish is not worth making on the day that comes once a year.

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