A Life Extraordinary

We get one life, so lets live!

Project Searchlight: Turning the Big 27

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project searchlight


I must admit, my 26th birthday wasn’t super amazing.  Not to the fault of anyone, we were a mere 2 days into the World Race, my team and my squad didn’t know each other well yet.  I was the first birthday of the World Race and while it wasn’t awful, my team definitely tried, I just didn’t feel very special.

The rest of the Race I struggled with jealousy each time a birthday would come up, finding myself over analyzing everyone else’s special day, sizing it up, and the truth was I was selfish, so selfish, and self conscious… I would judge how my friends were treated on their birthdays and I became so spiteful, and of that I am ashamed.

Once I realized how I had been acting I spent the next couple months trying to keep myself in check, especially when I realized I would be spending this birthday with my World Race family as well.  I couldn’t let myself get caught up in expectations, it wasn’t fair to my friends and I could end up with a broken heart.

As Project Searchlight kicked off and the day approached my mind began to stray toward expectations and this is where I know God came in.  With his help I was able to fend off the expectations and keep myself closer to earth.  When the day finally arrived I would have been content with simple Happy Birthday wishes from everyone, but I think, because I finally gave up all my desires for the day God blessed me with a day that was even better than I could have imagined, and for that I’m so thankful.  Some of the elements were purposeful acts of kindness and others came to be just out of chance, but overall my 27th birthday was incredible.

The day started out with a morning session at the AIM offices, followed by lunch and a rousing round of Happy Birthday from everyone there.  Afterwards we headed into town to spend the afternoon at Gainesville’s Town Square, starting off at Innmans Perk cafe where, when the guys working there found out it was my birthday they put on the most ridiculous Happy Birthday song ever and brought out a cupcake with a makeshift rolled-up-piece-of-paper candle, “blow it out quick, it’s a fire hazard.” Hilarious.  They then proceeded to say Happy Birthday every time they saw me for the rest of the day.  Way to make me feel special, and they didn’t even know me.

Cupcake!Afterwards we met up with my teammate Ricks (aka Lauren Ricks) and went over to the pizza parlor next to the cafe.  It was so good to see my awesome friend, even if it was just for a short time, and enjoy parmesan/garlic bread sticks at the same time.


The 4

4 of the 7 Unchained Rhythm girls, Ashley, Ricks, Erb and I.

Then we headed back to the AIM offices for dinner and our coaching sessions.  My awesome coach Tara not only figured out it was my birthday but also got me my favorite ice cream, Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food.  I was speechless!

Coaching Group

Our coaching group, me, Allison, Emily and Tara.

After our coaching sessions we moved the chairs to the side, turned off the lights and had a major dance party (the way to my heart!), which of course involved glowsticks…. and breaking glowsticks open…and learning the wobble…

Dancing!When I finally got back to Nathan’s house late that night everyone was still up, playing Wii in the living room.  I went downstairs to change out of my dress and when I came back up everyone was gathered around, they started singing Happy Birthday and then came out with a cake, and it was a funfetti cake.  Apparently they’d called around to my teammates to figure out what my favorite cake was, an incredibly thoughtful act, and delicious.


-Photo courtesy of Kristen Aperfine

At the end of the day I couldn’t have asked for more.  I am so thankful to my World Race family.  To my team mates and squadmates that made my day so special in ways I didn’t even mention above.  You are truly amazing and I’m so lucky to call you all my friends.


Author: Manda

Hello! I'm a lover of adventure, budgets, creativity, and living life to the fullest!

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