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A pandemic birthday and its priceless gift

Another year, another birthday. But it wasn't just any other typical birthday; this one was special.

It wasn't special because the celebration was spectacular or because I got loads of gifts or that I partied the night away. But then, none of my birthdays has been like this, by choice. I have always celebrated my birthday with my parents, preferred a sit-down meal over a party, and have never been too keen on gifts because I got everything I wanted (and needed) throughout the year. So then why was this one so similar yet different?

And then it hit me. It was special because I was content. It is a simple word, but it carries a lot of meaning. I not only got to celebrate this day with the people I loved the most, but I felt so much love of many others that I was overwhelmed. And that I have realized is the most significant gift that anyone could ever ask for. This is what getting older does to you. Did I panic? Surprisingly, not in the slightest.

I have never freaked out on the so-called important birthdays - 13 (Teenager yay!), 16 and 18 (everyone said these are magical), 25 (a quarter of a century on this planet - phew!), 30 (apparently I was supposed to go - OMG I am old!). Now at 32, I still feel like I am having an out of body experience. How on earth did that painfully shy, tomboyish, awkward and introverted girl now speak to 70 odd people on the fly explaining financial stuff, which still impresses me that I know so well? Like a pat on the back, good job impressed!

This tiny realization made me think of all the changes that I have gone through over the last few years. Most importantly, I have found my identity and happiness. As I turned 30, I started coming to terms with who I was. And it was the best thing that I could have done for myself. Of course, some people figure that out earlier than that, but I am happy that I eventually got there even though I took my time.

Life is too short to be left with regrets. I can see the sand trickling through the hourglass, and I do get that someday, there won't be as much sand. So I now try my best to spend it wisely. With people who I love and who love me back. With people who I think may need my help, but they always end up inspiring me. Friends, very few but the kind you want to hold on to for the rest of your life. Reconnecting with a few people with who I have no idea why I lost touch with. Thinning the crowd ruthlessly. To realize when to let go of someone for your benefit is a skill that you only master with life experiences and a few heartaches. But it is a crucial one.

I have become progressively more ambitious because I figured that I do punch below my weight all the time. I started working when I was 23, and after almost a decade of hard work and patience, I have never felt bolder in my career than now. I want to gain newer experiences and skills, study further, and work globally across countries. If anyone told my 23 y/o version that I would be fearless and ready to take a chance professionally or otherwise at 32, I would have probably laughed. Not anymore.

A significant change is my confidence in my appearance. I never used photoshop or filters, but I was never entirely happy enough with how I looked as well. Looking back, I can now see that my self-esteem was what needed fixing—not my appearance. Now when I look at another woman, it is not to bring myself down but to inspire myself to be fitter.

I also rarely get angry now and have no appetite for an argument. Things that used to be a grievous wound of the heart are now like I skinned my knee or got a mosquito bite. I heal quickly. I now have less time for drama and less inclination for heartbreak. Time and experience have toughened me up. I make an effort to re-evaluate my beliefs, listen to my gut, be the source of my happiness, care significantly less about others' thoughts, and have made my peace with constant change to embrace it.

When I wasn't looking or paying attention, I became an adult who is more capable, wise and ready for the world than I may give myself credit for. I've come a long way, and I have got further to go!

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