I’m pleased and proud to share this guest post from my friend Liz Adams – a Boston-raised BC grad who turned 30 on a day that held more meaning than she could have ever imagined. Enjoy!
It was the end to a week that terrorized my home town. It was a day I don’t think any Bostonian will forget. It was also the day I said goodbye to my 20s.
It should have been the worst birthday. I awoke in New York to news that a shootout had turned into a full manhunt and my city was shutdown. I scrambled to the airport hoping I could at least make it back to Boston, not knowing what I would do or what condition the city would be in when I landed. I wound up at home locked in my apartment glued to the TV and listening to the police scanners with my roommates. Anxiety consumed us all. And yet by the end of the day I considered this my best birthday yet.
Many of us will tell the stories of where we were when the bombs went off. The stories of how we pieced together the information of who was safe and who was not. We will tell the stories of where we were when we found out our friends and loved ones were hurt or worse. We will tell the stories of how we hunkered down in our homes trained to the police scanner and how the city collectively sighed when they found the second scumbag (the only official title for the suspect according to many Bostonians which is suitable for print).
We will remember these stories because this felt so deeply personal to so many. Boston is where I was born and raised. And when I left for 7 years to live in New York I proudly wore my Red Sox hat and carried that chip on my shoulder with which only Bostonians are born. For my part this week I learned that a Boston College classmate/friend and his wife were severely injured. But because Boston has the resources of a big city and the feel of a small town, it felt like we all knew someone who was personally terrorized by this week. Friends knew many others who were injured. My neighbor watched on Friday as a manhunt focused on an area where her grandmother, also celebrating a birthday, lives. (The suspect was apprehended several homes down the street from her grandmother’s house). We all lost a sense of safety.
But while we will tell the stories of horror and sadness because we have them, what we internalized is something completely different. Those that jumped in to help the wounded immediately; those that ran two more miles after completing a marathon to donate blood; those that worked tirelessly to locate the suspects; they made the impression that will last. The spontaneous displays of unity and kindness; these are the moments that will live in our hearts.
I will always remember how the generosity and outpouring of support for my classmate and his wife raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in only days. I will remember how many people reached out to me not only to wish me a happy birthday, but also just to see if I was okay. I will remember sitting on the tarmac and receiving a video of my two year old nephew singing happy birthday to me, a moment of innocence that relieved my anxiety. I will remember my neighbor using the contents of her pantry during the lockdown to make me cupcakes and my roommates organizing their surprise presentation to ensure that I did celebrate my birthday. And I will remember singing the lyrics of Dirty Water as we drowned out the sirens carrying the suspect to a nearby hospital- because we had heard too many sirens recently. I remember the viral videos that sprung up instantly on twitter of people pouring into the streets to cheer and thank law enforcement. And how in a truly Boston way the city responded with a “how about them apples” type of response, or as Big Papi said “this is our F!cking city, no one will dictate our freedom.”
In a moment earlier in the week where I was not sure if I deserved the upgrade from the kids table, a partner from my consulting firm offered some insight into the 30s as we ate dinner. He said “Your 30s are grad school for self-awareness”. And on this very bizarre first day of my 30s I was instructed on a fundamental but important lesson. While it is not particularly insightful to see the good in juxtaposition to so much evil, these are the moments where what is good it obvious to us. But the next level of thinking is required to ensure that you see the good and the blessings in the everyday; the times when you may otherwise take those good people and blessings for granted.
This day was a good birthday because as this 20-nothing transitioned to a 30 something, she was given the powerful gift of perspective and a reminder of what is truly important. I wasn’t worried about wrinkles, being single, or where I stacked up on the imaginary timeline that is my life project plan. I was truly grateful for everything I had on this very day. I was truly grateful for what we all have, Bostonians and those who have adopted this city in their heart.