Birthdays.

So here we are, few days short of turning 24. An age, I looked at as the one year away from building up my own castle of dreams, full up on responsibility. For the longest time, and I think up until right now –because it never clicked that we are growing this old, thanks to still being considered a kid at work or part of the younger group at parties sitting with the smaller kids – I always thought 25 was the year to grow up. Get your act together and start living your life.
From the 18’s to the 24’s – that was the time to explore, experiment, discover, fail and try again. 24 in itself is a big number. A beautiful even number that cries out in fear, because you’re just a year away from answering your 16 or 18 year old self.
My plans were so simple back then. Get out of school, study, work, find that special someone, settle down and have kids. Our parents had it easy. They had all of it covered. And not for a minute did I think it was going to be any different. Why should it, right?
But here I am, 14 days shy of turning the big two four, before the even bigger two five which is only 365 days away.
And I am scared. Scared because my life is not what I planned out to be. Because I haven’t done what I thought I would do, broken so many promises to myself and changed in a way that my 18 year old self might not be proud of. And whether I smile, or laugh, or cry, there’s a empty pit in the bottom of my stomach nagging me and it makes me that much afraid to face another birthday, something I have loved celebrating all these years.
They say the years after school is what changes you. They mould you. They snatch your life from right under your nose and water-bends it in different directions. But water is supposed to have no form but the ability to adjust to any shape. But frankly, I don’t know if my adjustments have been right.
There are things I’ve done in the past three years that I cringe at when I look back. I have let circumstances change me in ways I didn’t know was possible. Looking back, I am disappointed at myself for what I have done given the situation. I don’t regret all the decisions I have made because that would just mean I am a coward, but I regret letting those situations take control of me.
Since turning 20, I have loved a man with everything I have. I have loved him and hated him, and loved him again. I loved him enough to detest myself when he was upset and I let him use me to vent his hurt, pain and fear because that would mean he was ok at the end of it. I have loved and lost. I have lost and learnt. But I also grew up.
I went from not knowing where Colombo Hilton was to know how to haggle with three-wheeler drivers. I learnt to walk when my pockets were felling light. I learnt to smile and bear. I learnt to harden myself against the people I love; because for me then, love meant hurt and I didn’t want any of that.
And then I turned around and tried to live. To experience, as some would put it. I dated people I knew was bad for me. I let them get to me. Let their sweet talk wash over the nagging fears. I let them make use of me. And I lost again. But stubborn as I am I wanted to prove everyone wrong. No, I can change him, I said; and I continued my fall from grace. And when I fell this time, it was all my fault. No one else but myself to blame.
In my bitterness, I hurt the people who cared about me. Took their feelings as their weakness; and my power meter. I didn’t know it then, but while I was so busy living the so called life, moving from one club to another, I was losing control of who I was. I was making my 18 year old self ashamed. But I continued dancing anyway with scotch-on-the-rocks for balance; and while I thought so lightly of it, I was hurting myself as well.
At some point, I wanted to change. And for awhile I did. I started taking control. Directed my energies to positive things and tried to push back the negatives. I promised myself I won’t give in, that I will be a tough wall to crack and when the first blow came with the face of a bestfriend and someone I loved, I stood resilient. Few paint cracks and bricks missing, but still standing. I was finally gaining control.
Then I let my guard down. Horrible mistake, but I did. I let someone lure me with accidental intimacy. And I felt something come alive. I was beginning to think I have come to a state that I don’t really feel, that I took what triggered at a stranger’s house, as an easy alternative. And I messed up, again.
14 days to turn 24 and I feel like I’ll never have it together.
Those dreams woven so easily seem too good to be true. Life and reality is making me believe that I’ll never be able to make my 18 year old self proud.
So what happens when the candle is blown, the cake is cut and the wishes are shared? I don’t know. Will the coming year help me turn back my life to something that resembles who I was before, only better with what I have learnt – I don’t know. Will I be able to make my parents proud of having a older daughter like me – I really don’t know. But I know I care. I care enough to want to change.
But while there are so many questions to answer and bigger gaps to fill, I am thankful – so very thankful – for a few people who have held my strings together and stitched my torn patches when I was broken. I am thankful for the hands that wiped the tears, the arms that held me and the hearts that understood.
I am thankful for you.
I am even grateful to have you beside me as I face the numbers that scares me so much, that I just might pee a little in my pants. I am thankful to turn yet another page of our book of life’s chapter with you.

Happy Birthday in advance.
I really, really love you.

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