In three weeks I am turning 27 years old. What do I want to do for my birthday this year? The answer is simple: Nothing. It took me almost 27 years to get here, but i’m finally here. Six years ago, on my 21st birthday, I went bar-hopping. Five years ago, on my 22nd birthday, I went bar-hopping. Four years ago, on my 23rd birthday, I went bar-hopping. Three years ago, on my 24th birthday, I went bar-hopping. Two years ago, on my 25th birthday, I went bar-hopping. You see where this is going? My birthday is in January, I live in the north-east and the temperatures are generally freezing. I used to squeeze into the shortest and tightest dresses I could find to go to a bar and “enjoy a night out” with my friends. I honestly, genuinely, had a great time. Last year, on my 26th birthday, I went to dinner with my family and watched a movie in my living room. I don’t think I’ve ever had a better birthday.
A few years ago, I simultaneously had two jobs, an internship and was in the middle of finishing school, I looked at any and every opportunity to let loose; With such a busy life, vacations were far and few and weekends were my only chance to “enjoy” myself. After I finished school, work started. After work started, I got engaged. After I got engaged, I planned my engagement ceremony. After my engagement ceremony I moved to a different state and started a new job. After I planned my transition, wedding planning started. Wedding planning meant I used two-and -a-half of my three weeks paid vacation to go to India and shop. Side bar – bless the people who enjoy wedding shopping because those two and a half weeks were probably more stressful than a month at work. This isn’t me complaining, I get it, lots of Indian girls deal with the same thing, I’m not alone. This is me trying to relay how fast-paced life can be sometimes… So fast paced that you end up sitting alone in your office at 1:42 on a Thursday contemplating, “When’s the last time I went on a proper vacation? Not for someone’s wedding, not for something related to work… A proper vacation, with one motive: To relax.” (Hint, it’s been almost 4 years).
When was the last time you really enjoyed yourself? I don’t mean going out and getting drunk with friends – I mean truly felt like you were happy? At 21 my weekdays were filled with stress, my weekends were filled with running away from stress and any spare time in between was spent recuperating, trying to catch my breath before it all started again. It was exhausting. I don’t go out as often, anymore, but I find myself continuously playing a game of catch-up. I find myself drowning in never ending to-do lists. I find myself being harder and harder on myself for things that don’t turn out perfectly, because in my mind there’s an unattainable gold standard. I find myself feeling more and more alone in my struggles, despite knowing tons of girls (and maybe even some boys) out there feel exactly the same way I do. I find myself missing my home and my family.
Back to turning 27 – this year, I don’t want to do anything. I don’t want to go bar hopping and nurse a hangover the next morning. I don’t want to squeeze into the shortest and tightest dress I can find in the middle of a snow storm. I don’t want to worry about planning my wedding. I don’t want to worry about whether everyone else is happy and I don’t want to spend my week dreading how fast 26 went by.
This year I want to be more conscientious of how I’m feeling and recognize that my body is not a machine – I need rest. I want to make an effort to skip out on some weekend plans so that I can spend more time focusing on myself. I want to spend more time with my family because I only have seven months left as a Patel – and though my life will be filled with so much joy and happiness, saying goodbye to that part of me will easily be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
On second thought, I do know what I want to do for my birthday. I want to spend time with my family without having an ulterior motive – this means no wedding talk, whatsoever. I want to spend time sitting with them, enjoying their company, sharing laughter and soaking in everything. I want to wake up without worry. In three weeks I’m turning 27, it took me 27 years to figure it out, but i’m finally here – 27 means being able to say “no” to others so that I can, sometimes, say “yes” to myself.