I just turned 24! And here’s how I celebrated it…

By now I’ve gotten used to placing 23 in the “Age” box and saying the same when asked. Yesterday (8th of September) I officially turned 24 and so I have to retrain my brain to assume so. No pressure, I have a year to do some reorientation XD

CHANGES OVER THE YEARS

From when I was young to now, so many things have changed. I used to always cry when teased, and now I try as much not to show my tears. I used to wonder how best I can mix up the wardrobe of my Betty Spaghetty, and now I’m doing my own laundry! I didn’t think much of who I want to become, but now I’ve got on to trying my best to go about each day living up to my values and aspirations. Yes I’ve grown to look so different, but certainly I’ve progressed a lot more from within.

21-years

 

Of course nothing so drastic as metamorphosing into a butterfly occurred in the hours between the 7th and the 8th, but my mom asked me yesterday how I feel having just turned 24. I had assumed she was referring to my disposition, so I gave her a simple yet sensible answer, “Well I wish I was younger, but I’m just glad I am wiser.” I am not at the pinnacle of wisdom, perhaps never will be. I will do stupid things from time to time, but one thing’s for sure: I have grown to act more in prudence.

ALWAYS ALONE…

One thing you need to know about me is I have traveled alone quite a bit since I turned 18. On the 8th of September 2010 I flew to Singapore, and in the succeeding years I backpacked to Thailand and Malaysia. On my older passport, there were three departure dates showing “08 SEPT” just with different years. On September 8, 2013 I was set to fly to Cambodia, but my thesis defense was moved to the 9th so I had to cancel my trip. I made an unplanned retreat to a monastery on the night of the 7th until the afternoon of the 8th as an alternative that year. In 2014 I stayed at a hostel for a night and traveled around Manila (Philippines). September 8, 2015 was a rainy day but I went along with my plan to go alone to Koyasan (Japan) which is supposed to be one of the most sacred mountains in the world.

I’ve learned a lot about different cultures in my birthday trips, but I’ve discovered more about myself. Although I am a natural introvert who almost always keep to herself, being in a foreign place around people who don’t know let alone care who I am is especially distinct. Traveling to different locations I displace myself, but it is in these trips alone that I find myself. There is no question then that I preferred spending my birthday alone, even if it meant not spending it with people close to my heart.

I made no plans to travel yesterday. My passport was just in my drawer ready for use, and the ATM is a 2-min drive from our house. I could literally fly to any place with no visa restrictions had I desired to–but I didn’t want to. The practical reason is because I want to use my money wisely. I am in between jobs, and looking to relocate in Europe soon so spending money for a birthday holiday isn’t really a smart expense. The emotional reason is I didn’t see the need to. Now let me expound on the latter.

Out of all my birthday trips, Koyasan was supposed to be one of the most conducive place for self-discovery. The place is in and of itself very tranquil, and if your goal is to intently look from within yourself you better want nothing but a distracting and chaotic environment. On my 23rd birthday however I was unhappiest. I went through the day feeling restless yet empty. It was about the time I started sensing that being in Japan working in the law firm didn’t feel right. Ironically, I was in one of the world’s most sacred mountains, but my spirit was tired and distressed. Since I started my pursuit of self-discovery there was nothing more I want than to spend my birthday alone, but at that moment I’d never felt so lonely in my life! Maybe to travel alone on my special day is no longer what my heart desires.

…BUT NEVER AGAIN!

Then one year later…

My mom joined me to mass at 6:30 in the morning and for breakfast thereafter. We parted ways, and I found myself back in the church praying the rosary and spending more time with Jesus. At noon I surprised Malachite with a video call (it was understood that we’re only doing voice call) that lasted for about 4 hours and a half which was about the average length of our daily calls. He also helped me look for a restaurant for my birthday dinner with my family. In the evening, I celebrated my birthday with my family over dinner. No passport was stamped, no hotel was booked. All day yesterday I literally stayed within 3km radius of our house. My 24th was what not how I would normally celebrate my birthday, but it was nothing short of special. A stark contrast to how I felt ending my 23rd birthday, yesterday I went to bed feeling blessed, happy, and complete.

“I feel complete. You make my life complete,” I told Malachite tears swelling in my eyes. I was looking at him on my computer screen, and a strong current of emotions filled me. Right there and then I realized I no longer want to be alone. Malachite has showed me a different kind of love I never have experienced before–and it’s the kind of love that makes your heart leap out of so much happiness and glues a big involuntary grin on your face. My definition of birthday has changed. My heart’s desire has.

The essence of birthdays is ultimately to celebrate life. To understand life, I needed to find myself and found recourse to traveling as a means to. Being in a foreign place had always been helpful towards my self-discovery. My trips had afforded me a reason to set aside time to ponder on what I have become in the previous years and what I desire to be in the future. Indeed a lifetime may never be enough to completely know our own persons, but with the help of my birthday trips I was able to adequately be in sync with my individuality. But changes happen. As my life has become more about my family and Malachite and less of me, a fulfilling birthday celebration is to spend time with them; and on my 24th birthday I did. I chose to celebrate life with the ones closest to my heart–Jesus, my family, and Malachite. It’s exactly what I needed, and I felt nothing less of complete.

 

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