Birthday Reflections

(Warning: This is kind of a self-centered, egotistical post. Read with caution.)

It’s my birthday tomorrow.

My birthday.

The coming of it this year has made me realize how I really am an adult. See, they tell you that at 18 – “they” being your parents, friends, the government – basically society as a whole. And I mean, 18 was cool – I bought myself a lotto ticket on my birthday and called it a day. Then 20 came and all of a sudden I was like, “Jeez, okay, there went the teenage years. Now I’m grown up.” And while yes, that was true too, 21 came and knocked me over entirely, what with travelling the world right before and getting engaged and, oh yeah, the fact that I could purchase alcohol too. I guess with that I was “grown up” – I could do almost anything that any other “adult” could do.

But that realization didn’t set in until a few days ago. Until  it hit me that all the “big” birthdays are over. Sure, I’ll be able to rent a car for cheaper when I’m 25 – you can see I’m really excited about that one – but… that’s about it. No one seems to care when you turn, say, 26. Or 37. Or – let’s be honest – 22. Suddenly, birthdays become kind of obsolete.

I feel like a two-year-old throwing a temper tantrum when I say that I’m not used to that. I – just like a good percentage of people in America – enjoy celebrating my birthday. But with this somewhat sad realization came with it another, slightly happier one: if birthdays aren’t as big anymore, less people will come. And if less people come, I have an opportunity to do what I truly want to do and to enjoy the company of good friends and family while doing so.

So long story short, I had a really tough time trying to figure out what to do for my birthday. This year is the first time that I’m not home for my birthday, and on top of that, I’m working. Call me a lucky summer baby, but I’ve never had anything that I’ve had to do on my birthday before – no school, no work, nothing. All of these differences made it hard for me to decide what to do.

After going back and forth on various activities – out to dinner? Pizza? Dave and Buster’s? – I realized that what I really, truly wanted to do didn’t fall under the category of “typical birthday activities,” which is why I discounted it in the first place. But now I’m more than content with my decision – I’m, in fact, happy about it, and am starting to get excited for my birthday, even though I have to work and even though my family isn’t here.

So what is it, you ask?

I’m inviting a few people over to my apartment and making them lasagna and pie. We’ll watch The Italian Job and maybe play some board games if we feel like it. And I am so excited about it.

I’m most excited because I’ve wanted to make lasagna again for quite some time. Lasagna is one of the things that I really enjoy making (not to mention that I’m pretty good at doing so, if I do say so myself!). While it does take a long time to do – it averages around two-ish hours before baking – I find it to be a meditation of sorts. There is something so soothing and wonderful about taking twenty-some ingredients and turning them into a masterpiece.

To save myself the time, I went ahead and made the lasagna tonight. Now all I need to do is pop it in the oven tomorrow! 🙂 I’m also going to be baking a peach-strawberry pie, which is absolutely delicious. The thought of all of this makes me so excited, and hungry too, of course!

While cooking your own birthday dinner seems kind of backwards (even to me), it is something that I’m so excited about and grateful that I get to be doing. I love making food for other people – I can’t explain it, but there’s some intrinsic joy that comes with it. I can’t wait for tomorrow night, when some of my closest friends will be eating together, laughing together, and overall just having a good time with one another.

On a completely different note, I’d like to take a second to reflect on one thing more: Europe. Tonight marked my one-year anniversary of coming home from Europe, meaning I’ve been gone from there for a year. It’s a little bit crazy to me just how attached I still feel to that wonderful place (or, well, places, rather). I can imagine the sights, the smells, the people, just like it were yesterday. A year seems like such a long time in my head, but right now I’d prefer to flip it around: this time next year, I hope to be back. I hope to be wandering the streets of Torino or Venice or Paris, but this time with my husband beside me. If a year flew by so quickly, surely it will do the same again.

So yes… all of my reflections. Thanks for reading – ciao for now 🙂

Portrait of an Older Gentleman

The first thing I notice when he enters the room is his smell. Not a bad one, per se – it’s powdery and reminds me of Sunday afternoons at my grandparents’ house years ago. He smiles at me and says my name with care, holding his laptop in one hand and closing the door with the other.

“Hi Mohan,” I reply, returning the grin as he enters the room. He sets his things down and takes a seat, moving slowly but deliberately. There’s small talk for a second as we enter the virtual meeting we have set up so that he can teach me how to analyze data for a customer.

The man sitting across the table is no doubt three times my age, but he’s doing what I’m doing, working where I’m working, using the same tools as I do. He knows his way around the computer rather well, and though he types slowly, there’s a lot of thought and meaning behind each word. He takes his time explaining things to me, and while I’m inclined to lose my patience or my fast-paced train of thought in between his, I use the time instead to marvel instead at who this man was and who he is today.

In many ways it could be hard for us to relate to each other: me, a “millennial”, and a man who grew up (what seems like) forever ago. But we connect in a deep way. Instead of becoming impatient with my occasional lack of focus, he talks to me like I’m his granddaughter, and I appreciate that. There’s a certain level of comfort in this man with large glasses and white eyelashes. His kindness, while different from everyone else’s, is sincere, warm, and very welcome.

I wonder what it’s like for him. He comes to work every morning just like I do, but his life outside the office is drastically different. He mentioned to me last week that his roommate from college was dying from cancer – it must be unbearably hard to watch your friends start to die around you.

I want to be his friend, his surrogate granddaughter who goes to him for advice, help, or just to talk over a cup of tea. He mentioned that he’s more than happy to write me an evaluation for work if I ever need it – I wish I could do something for him.