Change Of Plans
By Amal Ghazali
I am writing this on my birthday. It’s a Saturday afternoon, and my parents had come by to the city to spend the weekend with me. My Mom kept saying, “It’s your birthday! It’s your birthday!” in the most excited manner, when to be honest I felt like it was her who deserves all the celebration for being in labour for almost 24 hours before she gave birth to me (without an epidural, mind you).
A birthday can be just another day that means nothing in particular. Some people make a big deal out of it, with parties that cost more than your month’s salary or a special dinner with a special someone who takes you to a fancy restaurant where the whole kitchen staff comes out to sing you a birthday song while carrying a cake exploding with fireworks. Some people use it as an excuse to get together with family and friends. Some people take no notice at all, even forgetting their own birthdays.
Whichever way you choose to commemorate the anniversary of you being physically present in this world, there is no right or wrong way to do it. However, it is definitely an opportunity for some self-reflection, as birthdays are basically physical reminders of how long we’ve lived and how far we’ve come. Time is slick - sometimes we don’t realise that a year has passed until a birthday comes by to remind us so.
The John Mayer Revelation
Last April I did something I never thought I would ever do. I went to a John Mayer concert. Hold on, I know what you’re thinking. So what? People go to concerts all the time. It’s not really an impossible feat. But here’s the thing – if you had told this to my student-self from 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it. You see, I had been a fan of his music ever since I was in college. I am such a fan that I can confidently proclaim that I know all of the lyrics to all of his songs. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about any of my friends. John Mayer was dubbed as ‘old people music’, he had never done an Asian tour and none of my friends would ever want to go and see him play live with me. And so the idea of ever going to one of his concerts seemed impossible and ludicrous.
But there I was a few months ago, with 2 other colleagues who happened to also enjoy his music, singing along to the songs I had only listened to on my MP3 10 years ago, but this time John Mayer was there. In the flesh.
This may sound like a trivial story about me going to a concert like thousands of other people out there, but it is just a small example of how unpredictable life can get. It is one of the many, many other things that have happened to me over the years that the younger version of me from decades ago would ever thought possible.
When we were much younger, we all have some sort of ideal vision of what we would like our lives to be. Some of us pictured ourselves in our thirties with a dream husband and a string of kids, living the good suburban life. Some of us pictured ourselves with a raving career and a fancy car or a nice house. Some of us visualised ourselves as having a great, stable, easy going life in general.
But ask anyone above the age 30 and chances are they’ll tell you that a lot of the current things in their lives are not exactly what they thought it would be. Some of the things that unravel are sub-par than their initial plans, while others may have exceeded expectations. As for me, there were many things I had always assumed I would do by this age, but with time they have revealed themselves as things that were not meant for me. It turns out that sometimes the plot thickens and the challenges are harder than expected, where you lose people, break relationships, fail in certain things or lose aspects of your health.
At the same time, there were also events that blossomed beyond my wildest imagination. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be seeing the places I have been to so far, I probably would have called your bluff. If you had told me I would be publishing books, I would have said it’s preposterous. In fact, if the twenty year-old me had met myself now, perhaps she wouldn’t have believed it. As the years went by my priorities and expectations have changed, and I believe that this is the same for the most of us.
Life Is An Open Book
During my birthday week I had lots of lunches with lots of friends. What this meant was that there were also a lot of discussions – about what birthdays mean, how far we’ve come, and how different things have become. It was clear that we all had different experiences and different lessons to learn, each of us being moulded to become specific people that we are today. Almost all of my friends would agree that in the end, none of them could’ve predicted their lives exactly as what they look like today.
Birthdays are milestones that allow us to qualitatively measure how far we’ve come or how different things have turned out with time. But that’s the beauty of it all. It meanders and changes in ways that we can’t foresee, but in the end it always works out well in our favour, at the very least, to change us to become who we are today. An older, but more importantly, improved version of ourselves.