Birthday reflections

I still can’t get over the fact that I’m 22. I’m not sure why the whole finding-myself-an-adult thing astonishes me, but it does. I think because the process of becoming one happens so gradually that one doesn’t really notice while it’s going on, and then when one realizes that one is an independent and fully-functioning “grown-up,” it’s… surprising. But a cool kind of surprising.

The other day I was listing defining moments that I remember during the process of growing up:

Late 2000: My college search. Mom does virtually all of the research and legwork for me, because I want none of it. All I do is make the decision.

April 2001: I get my driver’s license. But I don’t really use it all that much at the time, since I don’t have a car.

June 2001: I graduate from high school and get my first “real” job apart from babysitting and whatnot: I work at Haagen Dazs for the summer. Woohoo, free ice cream!!!

August 2001: I leave for college

October (?) 2001: I call home in tears because I’m homesick and lonely and I feel like I have no friends at Hamilton. It’s because I’m not into the party scene, and I hadn’t yet found friends who weren’t obsessed with alcohol and hook-ups.

December 2003: First time I tell (not ask) my parents about my travel plans – that I was going to be coming home a week later than anticipated. I was nervous about making that phone call. Mom was initially disappointed, but later accepted it. What’s funny is that to this day, I do things like decide to travel internationally without asking my parents’ permission, but when it comes to eating something out of the fridge, I always ask, “can I eat this?” and Mom always goes, “you DON’T HAVE TO ASK PERMISSION!”

March 2004: First significant period of time spent outside the USA (studying abroad in Brazil). Everyone was worried (my grandparents: “Do you know that Brazil is the country that has the most deaths by lightning strikes per year?”) but I survived 🙂

January 2005: I apply to graduate schools. This time around, I do all the research and all the work myself.

May 2005: I decide to get a tattoo, and tell my parents about it after the fact. And they are cool with it!

September 2005: I move to São Carlos alone on my Fulbright grant. As my dad said, it’s the second time my parents have had to “give me up” – the first was to college, and the third will likely be to my future husband…

April 2006: I discover that during the last year, I became officially independent (for tax purposes) from my parents.

July 2006: I call home in panic – yes, from Brazil, and I don’t even wanna think about how much I was paying per minute – because of my failure to cook a good brisket. Don’t ask :-p

July 2006: Done with the Fulbright and now outside of all official programs, academic and otherwise, I move to Salvador and become basically self-employed.

I used to, on my birthday, write two letters: one forwards, to be read on my next birthday, talking about my hopes and goals for the year; and the other backwards, reviewing my accomplishments and experiences of the past year. Unfortunately, I kind of dropped the habit during the last two years. But if I had to reflect now (for some reason, I’ve always felt more led to make resolutions on my birthday rather than New Year’s. Maybe because my birthday is a personal date, rather than a completely arbitrary changing-of-the-calendar date).

I would say that last year was quite bleak but ultimately good for me. Although the year wasn’t super wonderful (in contrast to the year before that), I learned some very important things and made some significant changes. Looking forward, the upcoming year should be full of joy! Not only do I have three more months in Bahia, but then there will be homecoming and getting to spend time with all the family and friends who I haven’t seen for fifteen months. I’ll also get to explore new opportunities and activities and see what I’m really interested in pursuing.