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#28 It's my birthday
And I'll cry if I want to
I am writing this as a 31-year-old, but by the time you get it I’ll be 32.
Thirty-two. What a weird age.
I am writing this from the back porch of my mum and dad’s house, the birds are singing in a way that always makes my chest feel pleasantly tight and the dusky sky is powder blue, a gradient stretching upwards. A kookaburra laughs from ages away, a dog barks from ages away, a train toots from ages away. The distance makes them sound like nostalgia. There are frogs in the pond, and they sound like pebbles dragging under waves on an Italian beach, rhythmic and hollow and clack-y.
My fingers smell like garlic and lemon and what else? I’m tired, a bit flat, lonely in the way I often am, reflecting on what it means to be a fully formed adult who gets younger in the head every year.
Today I am writing about birthdays, what I’ve learned and what I like about being alive.
It’s a chaotic stream of consciousness brain dump, because sometimes that’s all there is.
Crying on your birthday
Up until my early twenties, I cried on my birthday almost every year.
I was always disappointed by the just-another-day-ness of it and also, I’m a soft and hopeless cryer (and a brat). It would be my birthday (!) and strangers wouldn’t smile at me (!!), colleagues treated it as inconsequential (!!!), the world would not hum with inexplicable joy in honour of my birth (!!!!). Maybe it would rain, or people wouldn’t remember. The gifts as pretty and asked for as they might have been, did not make me happy. Once unwrapped and looked at in the mirror, they are just a thing that exists in your life. The feeling is hollow and yet you must smile widely and say thank you at least three times.
The first time I remember crying on my birthday was at my fifth birthday party. I was sitting on the floor unwrapping gifts and someone bought me colouring books. I hated them. They were so underwhelming. And I was five, so I had very little empathy and barely any manners. I cried hysterically (as though someone had died) with the books in my lap, and the poor little girl who gave them to whispered, “I’m sorry.”
Me hamming it up at my first birthday party (although I can only assume I cried at some point after this).
What have I learned? Thirty-two is the kind of age that trips you. Some people think you’re very young and others, like the 21-year-old intern who understands 90’s fashion only in theory, think you’re very old. Almost no one thinks you’re middle aged, which is a relief! Either way, thirty-two is still old enough to have learned a thing or two and to be precocious enough to talk about it. Here are some of mine…
Verbalise the compliment. Tell the people that you love that you love them when the feeling hits. Keep some things just for yourself. Understand the difference between honesty and meanness, there’s a difference. Good people are not always nice and nice people are not always good. No one thinks about you as much as you think about you. Paying your bills is self-care. Grief is love and that’s the point. Dogs are angels on earth. Cats get a bad rap. Say thank you. Seek feedback. Conflict is not always the worst. Accountability is hot (and hard, which is why it’s hot). You can get better at being on time but also, time is a construct. You should be changing, that’s also the point. Count your blessings, count them one by one. Style is different to fashion. Fresh air fixes a lot of things. Have low expectations of New Years Eve.
Some things I like about being alive
The sound of a teapot pouring into a cup. Olive oil, on everything. Lilacs. Dahlias. Banksias. The sound of kookaburras. Astrology memes. People who send me book or song recommendations. Independent book shops. The beach. Polaroid photos where you look ethereally beautiful because all your features have been bleached out. Compliments. Love notes. Bunches of flowers. Writing. Old photos. Spaghetti. Opals. Dogs, dogs, dogs! Especially fat, old, sassy dogs with underbites or bulgy eyes. The smell of coffee. Art Deco apartment buildings. Feeling like my chest is going to explode with hope. Stealing flowers on an evening walk. Perfect apricot-coloured roses hanging over a fence, especially when they don’t have earwigs in them. Magpie warbles. A specific kind of night in September, when you can smell wisteria and there’s a dog barking in the distance and you feel an ache-y kind of happiness, but you don’t know why. Also, a specific kind of day in January when you’re in your suburban backyard and it’s blistery hot and there’s nothing to do and you hear a plane flying over head. This be the Verse by Philip Larkin. Finishing a book. The movie 10 Things I hate About You. Irish accents.
Some things I don’t like
People who say they think being late is rude. Being the kind of person who is biologically compelled to run late. Competition. Being cold. Being hungry. Knowing that death will come but not knowing when or how. Sarcasm to disguise meanness. Crows and the noises they make. The homogeneity we continue to expect from 7 billion people. The ridges left in my belly after wearing my jeans.
A core memory
The first time I remember getting the feeling, I was very small. I must have been 4. We lived in a brick house on a court and the memory is fractured, like a poorly developed photo. There is my bedroom window, a lace curtain with sun shining through it and there is that feeling. Like the idea of a candle being lit in my belly, soft and glowing. It’s in my belly that feeling and it’s the feeling of happiness, of anticipation. Isn’t that funny that I remember that? A lace curtain and some sunshine and the physical feeling of happiness.
What does happiness feel like to you? And what have you learned in your life? Write back to me or comment here, I want to know.
Just before you go, this morning I donated to the Go Fund Me page for Kumanjayi Walker’s Coronial Inquest. They have raised around $38,000 of their $400,000 goal, and the inquest is in its second of three months, so more donations are needed. Justice for First Nations people, for Walker, for his family and for Yuendumu is worth fighting for. Please consider donating too 💜.
Thanks for reading my most self indulgent SIL ever (and hopefully not unsubscribing).