It’s that time of year again, I have successfully managed to orbit the sun without perishing and I am yet another year older. Customarily this event would call for a night filled with copious amounts of alcohol and the mindless squandering of a small fortune, but this year the glorious 7/11 holds a special meaning. I will cross the quarter-of-a-century milestone and celebrate the one-month anniversary of traveling in the magnificent city of Marseille.
Plus, now I can finally legally rent a car!
A few days ago in Valencia, a hostel roommate asked me if there was anything special I planned to do to celebrate this momentous year. I was oddly perplexed by the seemingly simple question, and for a moment, was rendered speechless. I hadn’t given my birthday much thought - in fact it hadn’t even really crossed my mind. As I sat on the patio in silence with a blank stare on my face, I had a flashback of my past birthday celebrations in Texas. I could smell the aroma of my grandmother’s chocolate cake and see all of my family standing in the dark, huddled around the kitchen table singing Happy Birthday.
I thought for a moment what it would be like if I was back home this year in that familiar scenario. What would running through my head? I imagined gazing at the 25 tiny flickers specks of light that would adorn my humble little cake, and as I leaned over to blow out the candles I would close my eyes, take a deep breath, and wish will all my heart that I…
...could be right here in Europe.
The entire experience took less than a fraction of a second to replay in my head, and I realized in that moment that I am living the very wish I would have asked for if I were back in the states. I’ve been celebrating my 25th birthday for the past month and it has been a whirlwind of new people, exciting places, and wondrous experiences that I will never forget. It has taken years of saving, planning, and waiting for me to finally get to this point, and I couldn’t be happier or more grateful for the opportunity. There’s really no other place I’d rather be than where I am right now.
However, if you are feeling particularly generous, I’m never opposed to a donation. :)
Shameless, I know.
For many, the quarter-of-a-century mark is a time when people realize just how old they really are and it usually prompts the question, "What am I doing with my life?” From there, emotions of anxiety, fear, and despair typically set in, because of course, everyone you see on Facebook is getting married, having kids, doing great at work, and generally appear to have their life in order.
Sickening isn’t it. I hate those people too.
By no means do I have my life in order, nor do I have any idea of where I’m going - both metaphorically and literally - but for the first time I get to live completely in the present moment and looking at Facebook no longer engenders that same sense of depression. My life is far from perfect, there are lots of uncomfortable nights, I’m almost perpetual lost/confused, there are people I miss terribly back home, I can’t speak the language, and even simple tasks I took for granted (like flushing a toilet) have become at times completely dumbfounding. Nevertheless, I hold no regrets because I’m doing exactly what I wanted to do in my life.
There is a surprising joy in simply being able to live in the moment and appreciate the little, seemingly irrelevant things in life. Since leaving, I’ve noticed that I tend to "stop and smell the roses" more often now - which it's readily apparent by the ever-increasing number flower pictures on my phone. It is wonderfully fulfilling feeling to just sit back, look around, take a deep breath, and simply enjoy whatever happens to be around you. I have no schedule and no place to be other than where I am. It’s still a seemingly odd feeling because the vast majority of my life I've spent rushing to get somewhere, whether it be in school, at work, in my career, or other life milestones.
While it is tradition to give gifts to a person on their birthday, permit me the chance to switch roles this year give you something instead. It is gift particularly well suited for my nomadic life as it is small and intangible, but it means a great deal to me all the same. It is a quote by Allan Watts that is becoming increasingly more valuable the longer I travel and is a simple yet elegant perspective on life.
"The existence of the physical universe is basically playful. There is no necessity for it whatsoever. It isn't going anywhere, that is to say that it doesn't have some destination that it ought to arrive at.
In music one doesn't make the end of a composition the point of the composition. If that were so, the best conductors would be the ones that played the fastest, and there would be composers that only wrote finales. People would go to concerts just to hear one crashing chord, cause that's the end. Same way with dancing, you don't aim at one particular spot in the room where you should arrive. The whole point of dancing is the dance.
We think that our life is a journey, a pilgrimage, which has a serious purpose at the end and the thing is to get to that end, success or whatever it is, or maybe heaven after you're dead, but we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing and you were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played."
Today I cross the threshold into my 25th year and couldn’t care less how I celebrate the occasion. I look forward to finding out what this 7/11 holds - because naturally I still haven’t planned anything - but the simple fact that I’m here in Marseille is celebration enough for me.