I have these images in my head about how things in life should turn out before they happen. How a conversation with old friends will go, how a new city will make me feel, how I'll impress someone I haven't met yet, what my first day somewhere will be like. Inevitably, nothing ever turns out the way we picture it in our heads, and we're left with the determination that things will be different next time.
It was one of those single digit birthdays you don't quite remember with perfect clarity as an adult. My mom had bought me a cake, chocolate, decorated with white and yellow frosting, tucked nicely in a box for transporting home. I absolutely insisted on carrying it during the short walk from our car to our apartment, I had pictured myself gracefully gliding to the doorway as mom opened the door for me to step through like a princess. She insisted against it because she was afraid I would drop the cake. I won. I tripped. I dropped it on the hot August pavement. It was a devastating moment for my younger self as not only had I ruined my birthday cake, but I also got slapped in the face with a lesson in humility on the very day where it's okay to be unapologetically self centered and arrogant. Nothing like I pictured. We ended up eating the cake, mom scraped off the corner that got smushed to the ground, redistributed some of the frosting, and worked out some crafty angles for the photos. And as horrifying as it was at the time, it was character building—a learning experience. Never again would I be so careless with cake.