Being a homebody, I’d say my birthday was spent in a fairly cosy, comfortable way. That equates, more or less, to many hours spent sitting on the couch catching up on my YouTube subscriptions, eating pizza, responding to brand emails and doing a bit of creative work. I followed a new recipe and baked a chocolate cake just prior to my birthday- It worked out like a charm and I snuck in many pieces throughout the course of the day. My concern was that it would be too sugary, oily or watery but the three combined made the cake full-bodied, smooth and absolutely luscious. Combine that with silky frosting and it had reached new levels. Chef’s kiss!
My birthday has fallen on a weekday for as long as I can remember. Wednesday, the second of December. It’s more or less become the done thing for me to stay home, sleep in and embrace a slower rhythm. I got a new pair of scissors off wish the other day and they’re too cute. Not exactly a dream to cut with, considering the cheap price, but looks deceive. The latest issue of Teen Breathe magazine contained a mini collage kit, a bright, sunshiny ode to summer days. I was on the verge of forgetting about this completely so decided to take five minutes off and complete the task. I will try my hand at putting something together lately. Maybe there will be a new creation to grace my Instagram feed in the coming days!
My birthday plans took shape last weekend- my family and I went to Neptune Palace, a fine dining Malaysian Restaurant in the City. This is a tradition for us on special occasions- birthdays, anniversaries, job promotions and the like. A fun fact is that my parents first took me there when I was six months old. They say my early exposure is the reason behind my refined palette, haha. I always look forward to nights out like this. We ordered our usual spread of spring rolls, satay chicken, mongolian lamb, beef with fresh chilli and herbs and a few others. While many of my friends prefer to spend their special day with friends, I choose to keep family close by. I’m neither an extrovert nor introvert and probably fall into the ambivert category. The balance I keep of social time and that spent in solitude is unequal but it hardly bothers me. Most days I attend school, spend break times with friends and ta-da, just like that, my quota has been filled. I definitely prefer my own company and the ease that comes with that. When at home or during free times in classes, I’ll work on my blog. It keeps me busy, on my toes and is rather fulfilling. Content creation is a never ending job. There is always something to be done or improved upon. As such, I don’t like to wile away my time with needless pursuits. Next year however, I feel it will be crucial that I form strong bonds with other creative types. I’m prepared to commit time and energy to maintaining those relationships, especially as I’ll be out of my depth and in a predominantly adult environment with college.
My birthday this year shaped up to be somewhat bittersweet. I definitely rode that wave of feeling every emotion known to man. An honest reflection of my life at the moment is that I’m doing okay but my loved ones aren’t the happiest. Loose ends are being tied up college wise, a great relief as this process has been somewhat arduous, but we’ve experienced a significant loss just the other day. Closely following my interview and tour with Sydney Design College, we received the news that my Great Grandmother had passed away. She was ninety three and lived a long, full life, surrounded by people who were involved and cared about her greatly. I have fond memories of her as she was the epitome of a strong woman. She had quite the fiery personality and could be very stubborn and forthright. She had somewhat of a potty mouth too- It was absurd and quite hilarious. She was a real cheeky soul, even though she didn’t appear so outwardly. In her younger days, she raised a big family of predominantly boys. She was a strawberry farmer and would wake up ready and waiting at dawn. Taking a basket, she and others would fruit pick and the berries would be transported to the markets. From all I’ve heard, they were quite the hit with the locals. Juicy, flavourful and perfectly sweet.
In recent months I didn’t see much of my great grandmother. She had lived inside a boutique nursing home, Opal, for the past year and a half. We visited frequently before the pandemic but as restrictions tightened we weren’t let inside. As I’m not vaccinated against the flu and have had bad reactions in the past, we didn’t want to chance it. A couple of weeks ago, my brother and I were brought to the foyer of the home and she was wheeled in from upstairs. We couldn’t hear each other through the thick pane of glass but communicated through pictures and writing on my Instagram stories. I told her we loved her very much. She was fairly responsive and seemed in touch with herself, at least somewhat, to the very end. A fond memory I have was of the two of us napping together at my old place. It was a muggy afternoon and I feel asleep on her shoulder until we were called for lunch. I remember waking up at some point but not wanting to move.
Don’t get me wrong- I’m beyond thankful to be entering a new season in my life and wait in anticipation for the excitement to begin. I’ve spent the last few months mulling over how I should spend my last year before adulthood. I’ve even considered making myself a checklist but that seems too simplistic, especially when you take into consideration the unpredictable nature of today’s world! This year, however, I’ve decided I need to focus on enjoying being young and the freedoms that come with it. I need to keep in the forefront of my mind that it’s a privilege to be at the start of my journey and not the end. What’s saddest about growing old is that your mindset and dreams don’t change. Your capabilities do though. Time becomes scarce and eventually it runs out. I read a quote today from the daily stoic, a site rooted in the teachings of great philosophers, that touched me. It was profound, after all, and dated on my birthday. I’ll share it with you soon. I understand this may come across as depressing but I’d rather see it as enlightening. These are realisations, after all, that some of us may never happen upon. It’s almost a rite of passage, a coming of age moment, when you let these truths sink in. They should become our driving force and motivation to act with bold intentionality. Every moment contains infinite opportunities that pass us by as quickly as they approach.
Don’t mind me, I’m only dying slow. Let each thing you would do, say or intend be like that of a dying person. Have you ever heard someone ask: “What would you do if you found out tomorrow that you had cancer?” The question is designed to make you consider how different life might be if you were suddenly given just a few months or weeks to live. There’s nothing like a terminal illness to wake people up. But here’s the thing- you already have a terminal diagnosis. We all do! As the writer Edmund Wilson put it, death is one prophecy that never fails. Every person is born with a death sentence. Each second that passes by is one you’ll never get back. Once you realise this, it will have a profound impact on what you do, say and think. Don’t let another day tick away in ignorance of the reality that you’re a dying person. We all are. Can today be the day we stop pretending otherwise?
This year taught me a lot about the priorities I hold and the significance behind my ordering of them. I dove into twenty twenty eager to kickstart my life and regain a head start. Over the years, I’d lost control with my mental and physical health struggles. While I dug myself out of that dark headspace successfully, the real work was in rebuilding my world. The foundations I’d faltered on could not sustain the person I’d become. At some point, I reached an inevitable standstill. My lack of school attendance had me concerned that I wouldn’t keep up with the others- this was towards the end of ninth grade. At this point, I had faith in the system and didn’t consider alternative pathways. I was adamant on this version of perfection that was misaligned with my true nature. I couldn’t be my freest self because, ultimately, I was chasing a dream other people held. What was in my heart looked very different. For those wondering, I used to attend a Catholic private school. There was a sense of unspoken pressure to be at the top of your game and constantly hustling and achieving. Even though it wasn’t outwardly admitted to the students, it was well known that classes were graded. Naturally, being my perfectionistic, competitive self, I took this on and directed all my energy towards school. I would revel in the highs but the low moments chipped away at my self esteem. I was always on edge. Eventually, a wrongly graded test saw me snap. Long story short, I decided that there was only one way forward. I needed a clean slate and new momentum. I moved house and changed schools. There, I repeated ninth grade.
Twenty-twenty, the start of tenth grade, was my so called gap year. Instead of moving to year eleven and twelve with my peers, I took the time to slow my rhythms and figure out a game plan for my future, for the long term. This turned out to be a very good call. In a year and a half’s time, I’ll be qualified with a diploma of Interior Design and Decoration. To me, this means more than a piece of paper and a graduate’s gown. It’s been a long road to convincing those around me that my lack of interest and commitment is not with education but with the paved path that is normality. It is comfortable to walk but leads nowhere. I will always value education because it makes the world go around- however, If I am to be an asset in a grown up society, it will have to be done my way. I refuse to spend my days furthering another person and being a nameless, faceless worker bee for a large firm. I won’t subscribe to the expected nine to five workday because I know another way. If there’s anything my generation values, it’s flexibility. I want to be someone who is loud, proud, bashful, outspoken, sincere, genuine, open, heartfelt, warm, tender, real, authentic and unapologetic.
I can’t imagine you’d be met with overwhelming positivity when you ask people about their year, the goals they achieved and how it all panned out. Strangely enough, the pandemic worked in my favour. It brought me closer to my long distance partner and allowed me many days of blissful rest. Suddenly, the things I always liked to do became accepted. Why not stay in bed until the afternoon? Why not support your favourite restaurants and order the same takeaway every week for a year? What stood out to me was how apparent it had become that I coped in different ways to previous years. When faced by unprecedented hardship, I was less reactive and acted out less. I made greater efforts to ground my being and perform acts of self love rather than endangering my values and turning into someone unrecognisable. Slowly but surely, I slipped into routines that spoke to my need for comfort and nurture. I began to approach my craft with increased certainty, turned my house into a home, nourished my body when it called for it and gave selflessly within my relationships. My partner is an extrovert and the endless empty hours took a toll on him. He definitely thrives off of consistent social connection. I was living in my own bubble but made sure to affirm his feelings and empathise the best I knew how. After all, that’s what we do for each other.
It’s an understatement to say that the ground we stood firm on has been rocked this year. Bushfires wreaked havoc across my home country. We experienced that biblical fire and flood situation. The Black Lives Matter movement and protests were in full swing. America saw a new President and Vice step into office. It has been a year of rising from the ashes. While there has been great devastation and loss of community, country and sense of self, we’ve banded together to see each other through it all. People have stepped up in their leadership, learned the importance of intentional acts of kindness and walked with humility.
Growing up is strange. I can see myself remaining in this in-between stage of adolescence for a while yet. The other day I opened a bank account and had to be directed throughout the process. I didn’t know the difference between this number and that number at all. It was a small wondrous moment for me. My first deposit! How exciting. Holding a driver’s license still amazes me. Despite the fact that I’m still on my learners and have only completed eighteen of the required one hundred and twenty hours, it’s progress nonetheless.