When I began writing this post, it had a bit of a sad theme – but by the time my birthday had ended, I had a different perspective altogether. Birthdays always tend to be a day of extreme feelings and mixed emotions for me – I’m past the stage in life where you get excited about aging another year (I’m actually starting to feel like the years are passing too fast without anything to show for them), but not past the phase where you get excited about the birthday in general (let’s be honest, do you ever really get past that phase?). Maybe I’ve been too spoiled by family and friends growing up, but having this first birthday away from everyone special to me was really difficult. But it was also great. So perhaps I will share with you the mixed bag of celebrating a 24th birthday in a foreign country:
Sad: 24 in general. Not only an anti-climactic number, but an age where I am, as was so rudely pointed out to me, no longer in my early twenties. I am in my mid-twenties. And that is terrifying, as I still identify as a moderately lost child with no idea what I want to be when I grow up, and really no desire at all to become an “adult,”
Happy: I am young, happy, and healthy, and have everything I could possibly need (and far more at that). The twenties are a great time for self discovery and world travel and the pursuit of wonders of all kinds. There should be more years crammed between age twenty and thirty, because it’s a thrilling decade of life.
Sad: going into the best time of year – Halloween-Birthday-Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Years – in the WRONG season! I’m used to a crisp fall day on my birthday, sometimes even a dusting of snow, but it just doesn’t feel right here. And no pumpkin lattes and hot cider and football (not that I watched often…but I liked knowing I could if I wanted to! go Buckeyes!) and Thanksgiving and snow on Christmas and cinnamon candles and fires in the fireplace….well, I suppose I’ll continue this rant later. And probably many times. But you get the idea.
Happy: um, it’s actually warm and sunny on my birthday?
Sad: your best friends and family and boyfriend are physically absent. If I were in Oz, I’d so be clicking my heels right now.
Happy: your best friends and family and boyfriend make your birthday extra special with letters, skype dates, flowers, and care packages. I also hear there is a COFFEE MAKER on the way, which I intend to break in the very second it arrives!!!
Sad: being almost a day ahead, most people don’t recognize your birthday when it is actually your birthday.
Happy: according to Sarah, my birthday lasted 42 whole hours! I have to say, having messages still pouring in the entire next day was quite heartening – so none of the post-special-day slump that I tend to fall into on November 11, December 26, etc.
Sad: at the age of 24, you start to feel silly about thinking your birthday is a big deal, and silly for being sad that no one around you knows it’s your birthday.
Happy: your awesome beach-going, dinner-sharing, Gilmore Girl-watching, adorably-accented, I’m-going-through-this-new-culture-shock-and-homesickness-thing-right-with-you friend here on internship from Germany makes a super big deal about your birthday because she happened to notice on facebook a few days in advance! I was treated to an amazing homemade dinner, professional-quality cake, and a fun jaunt to a cool local bar – Joe’s Garage. And a beautiful pair of earrings! I’m so sad this great girl is going to head home long before I do, but I hope we’ll have many more adventures before then. Oh, and I got lots of love from her flat cat (:
Sad: feeling stuffed from all the amazing food.
Happy: arriving home late to find your flatmates also put together a gift basket full of traditional Kiwi treats for you. Yes, I do believe I have room for some pineapple lumps before bed! (P.S. – disgusting at first, but they definitely grow on you!)
Sad again: receiving an email with your free birthday sundae from Graeter’s, and being reminded that you will not get a free birthday sundae from Graeter’s for at least 3 years ):
Happy again: let’s be real…you don’t need any more dessert at this point. And you should maybe go run around the block.
Though there was no musical dolphin show, dolphin cake, or ridiculous amounts of hugs and squeals and far more attention than I’m outwardly comfortable with (but kind of love), I’d say that I had one of the most meaningful birthdays yet.
As a bit of icing on the cake, this morning I woke up to an eloquent, wise, and inspirational email from one of the most loving and wonderful friends a person could possibly have. She first of all makes me feel super special and cherished, and then reminded me that birthdays are a time to step back and take a survey of our lives – how they’ve gone for the past year, and where we want them to go. It’s better than New Year’s for resolutions making, because it’s a more personal time of reflection, and time to make pledges to yourself to live the next year the way you really want to.
So with her encouragement, I will embark upon age 24 with a new spark and sense of purpose. I’m not quite sure what that purpose is, but I do know that I’m incredibly blessed and even when I’m feeling down or homesick, I have to remember that I currently possess, am experiencing, or am actively chasing everything in life that I’m most passionate about – and that’s an awesome feeling. I will embrace every juicy ounce of this incredible life and actively appreciate the countless blessings and amazing opportunities I’ve been given. And in that spirit, a quote from Shauna Neiguist’s book Cold Tangerines:
“I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud. And I don’t want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, and realize that my life is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes. I want to eat cold tangerines and sing out loud in the car with the windows open and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact color of the sky right now. I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down, and I want my everyday to make God belly laugh, glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift.”
Not yet off the roller coaster of the day, a bit later I read an incredibly emotional essay from the deepest thinking and most well-spoken person I’ll probably ever meet, which has me in knots all over again. It’s on the importance and true meaning of “home.” If you’re interested, check out the most recent post on our shared blog, http://www.awholepanofbrownies.blogspot.com, to understand a little more about the deep friendship shared by 6 girls, and why it’s so freaking hard to be away from them. I miss my home – the physical location, yes, but mostly the people. Because in the end, it’s not the things you do, the stuff you possess, or the places you go, but just the people that have touched your lives and hopefully had theirs touched by you as well that truly matter.