It’s time for another monthly mindscape and today is my birthday! I’m turning 34 and thought instead of writing a piece of fiction, I’d tell you the story of one of my favourite birthdays.
I’ve never been a big birthday person, in all honesty. If I get some sort of cake or baked good and a glass of prosecco – I’m happy. Going out to eat is usually my favourite way to celebrate and as you read this, I’ll be getting ready for my third meal out this weekend.
Being around people I love and enjoying a delicious meal makes me happier than anything else. Which is kind of surprising, because when I tell you the story of one of my favourite birthdays, you’ll notice I’m alone for most of the day.
I’ve never been the type to want a big party and, as my family will tell you, if you get the restaurant to sing me Happy Birthday, I’ll be pissed. Like, really pissed. I like to reflect on my birthday and think about what’s still ahead. Perhaps that’s why I liked this birthday so much, I had lots of time to think.
Oh, and I was in Dubai.
As I woke up and looked around, I smiled. My friend’s apartment was spacious, I’d had the best night’s sleep and was excited to be somewhere warm in February. Still in my pajamas, I rifled through my suitcase to find the birthday cards I’d brought with me and made my way to the lounge.
Sat on the sofa with a coffee in hand and sunlight streaming through the windows, I opened my cards. I laughed as I saw several funny cat cards, my loved ones know me well. I also thought about the missing card.
This was my first birthday since I ended things with a long-term boyfriend. After nearly three years of trying to mould ourselves into something that would work, we admitted defeat. We simply didn’t fit, and trying to make ourselves do so was hurting us both.
After the relationship ended, I had lost my shape. Part of me finding my shape again would, as it turned out, involve travelling. I had to remember what made me happy again and after a trip to Berlin with my mum in December, I jumped at the opportunity to visit a friend who had moved to Dubai.
I thought about my ex’s missing card and wondered if he was thinking of me that day. The pain still felt quite raw with only a few months gone by since the break-up, but I also had a quiet knowing that this was all for the best. And being alone for most of the day felt right. I needed to connect with myself again, on my own.
I went to the kitchen and attempted to make myself the same delicious scrambled egg and chorizo breakfast my friend had made the previous morning, but alas, I was not as skilled as him. It tasted fine, but I realised I should probably head out for my next meal.
And head out I did. I stepped outside and let the warmth of Dubai’s sun warm my pale, English skin. I walked to the mall which, if you’ve been, you’ll know is a labyrinth of decadence that one can easily spend a day in. Slowly meandering from shop to shop, I picked up a new red lipstick and found myself in the changing room of Cos, trying on a spotty jumper that made my heart sing.
In the mirror I noticed my hair. I’d had it cut short a couple of months before (cliches are cliches for a reason) and had changed my parting to a central parting. Now though, it was starting to regain its length and I realised the central parting just wasn’t me. I flicked my hair over to the side and smiled, I was coming back.
Leaving the mall I went to a restaurant my friend recommended for lunch and asked for a table for one. I let myself loose on the luxurious buffet, filling my plate with pastas, salads and vegetables. I noticed locals eating with friends and felt utterly at peace.
On the way home I found a spot to sit and people watch for a while. I took pictures for tourists, posing in front of the impressive architecture and thought about where the next year would take me. The future looked blurry now but, in that moment, nothing felt more exciting.
When my friend got back from work we changed outfits and went out for a decadent and delicious Thai meal. And even though I left my doggy-bag full of cake in the toilet, it honestly couldn’t have been a more perfect birthday.
Well, there we go. I hope you didn’t mind coming on that trip down memory lane with me there, it felt really nice to reflect on that trip. I don’t think I realised at the time how significant it was. Now I want to hear about your favourite birthday, let me know in the comments!
I’ll be back on Wednesday with a podcast on getting out of a funk and on Sunday there’ll be a blog about the fear of ‘fear’ itself. Until then, I hope you have a lovely week.
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