Yesterday was my Twenty-First Birthday. I’m not a massive fan of big birthdays mostly because I hate planning them and secondly, I’m not a big fan of being fussed over. I spent this birthday, like most before it, outside enjoying the weather with my friends.
As it has been on my birthday for as long as I can remember, it rained in the morning. Sophie and Ellie came over early while the sky was still cloudy for chocolate chip pancakes. Tuva and Erling wished me a happy birthday and hung around watching the pancake carnage. They’re nearly done with their final essays. Then, Ellie went to the library to revise and Sophie and I headed to the Anatomical Museum. The University has a special osteology collection that is only open to non-medical students on the last Saturday of each month. In this case, the date fell on my birthday. Maybe it’s a little gross going to look at bones on one’s twenty-first birthday… but Sophie didn’t seem to mind. She studies philosophy and she said she ‘quite enjoyed it actually.’
After, we went for coffee and then wandered around the Saturday market in the Grassmarket. We followed the path along the castle, through Princes Street Garden to Waterstones. I bought myself a new cookbook. When we left Waterstones, the sun had finally broken out from behind the clouds and I send a text to the rest of my friends to meet us in the Meadows for birthday cake and gin.
That morning, my parents had surprised me with a massive birthday cake. The delivery guy was equally confused when I opened the door in my Christmas pajamas with a ‘Who ordered this cake?’
Sophie and I returned to my flat to grab the cake, a picnic blanket, gin, tonic water, etc. Then we set to the Meadows to find a sunny spot. I would argue the Meadows is a liminal space. It’s an eighteen acre park in the South of Edinburgh just shy of the main University campus. During the winter it becomes a barren wasteland until it snows and then it becomes full of half-made snowmen. During the Spring, and more so in the Summer, it is filled with people, barbeques, dogs, and fire-twirlers. Yesterday it was less crowded than usual due to the rain that morning, but we found a nice dry spot close to the music being played from higher up Middle Meadow Walk.
Soon enough more friends cycled by and joined. By eight o’clock both the cake and the gin were gone. We headed to my flat to drop things off and then moved to the Argyll, the local just down the street. As it turns out, the Argyll was hosting African Drum Night. More friends came and went, all dropping by amidst revision. It was lovely to see everyone and we all discussed plans for when we are all finished in May. We stayed at the Argyll until late then all departed to our homes.
And so, my birthday came and went and I am so glad I spent it here and with those people.
I know it’s a broken record, but as a kid I wanted what I have now so, so, so badly.
I still remember the first day of High School, my English teacher had us read a poem by Walt Whitman. He said it probably encapsulated what we were probably thinking:
A noiseless patient spider,
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.
And I think it still does in many aspects. But, at least in this point in my life I don’t feel detached or in a ‘measureless oceans of space.’ I’m connected to this city and to my friends and I life I built here for myself. Truly, built for myself and by myself in a brand new city and brand new country.
So now, as I move forward with the next chapters of my life I’m excited. I’ve worked hard to get where I am today and I have had a lot of help as well. So, thanks everyone. I hope I won’t disappoint you.
But today, as I finish writing this in the sunny shade of the Meadows I am thankful. Thankful for what I have seen, the places I have been, and the people I have met along the way. And I don’t know what it will be, but I am sure I will be thankful for whatever comes next.