Today is my 21st birthday. In my brain, I’m still 15 and an idiot. How did this happen?!
For the longest time, turning 21 has seemed like crossing the finish line. It has felt like the point at which I would have become the wonderful, funny, independent Adult-with-a-captial-A version of myself.
I am not the woman I had imagined I would be today. She is a lot more confident, eloquent, accomplished and vivacious than I am. She has a drivers license, an apartment filled with inseparable Best Friends, a passport full of stamps and an espresso pot. She is throwing a house party in Cardiff where her pals plan to serenade her in Welsh. But here’s the reality: I haven’t been behind the wheel of a car in over two years, I have moved back home, and my closest friends are scattered across the city and the globe like lost treasures. I can’t drink coffee, and I’m definitely not going to Wales anytime soon.
So, no, I haven’t grown up the way I had always imagined. Far from it. But as I reflect on the experiences that led me to grow up to be the woman I am, I am thrown by the resilience I never knew I had. I made it to my 21st birthday by the skin of my teeth. I’m very lucky to be mostly healthy, to have managed an international transfer in four turbulent weeks, to have my heart placed firmly on two sides of the Atlantic.
And yes, I have yet to get a drivers license- but I have three scuba diving licenses. I live at home, but I share that home with the people I love most. I have some kind, loyal, supportive friends in my life that are amongst the most interesting and compassionate people in the world. I can’t drink coffee, but that’s a bit of a First World problem. I’m working on keeping a positive attitude as often as possible. I’m embracing the uncertainty of life, because it led me here: to Toronto and to Glendon. And for that I’m grateful.
I like to think that I’m kind, loving and strong. At least I try to be. I owe that much at least to the village that raised me. 21 doesn’t look how I had imagined- but it doesn’t look half bad.
We are told from such an early age to plan every detail of our lives: by the time we are 15 or 16 society already expects us to be tailoring our every choice towards a certain career path. We commit at such a young age to a life we may not even be sure we want.
If you had met me at 16 and had asked me about my future, I would have probably stood there, hand on hip, and talked your ear off about how I was going to take a year out to go backpacking, I would study English lit and creative writing at uni and write books and columns and live happily ever after. I would have swung my waist-length red-wine hair over my shoulder and made some sassy remark about how I had always known that was my path.
I like to think that I improved with age. My hair is back to my natural colour, my eyebrow game is stronger, my ego has diminished. I have seen enough of life to understand that we cannot plan our futures- nor should we feel that we have to. It was never in my game plan to move to Canada. It was definitely not in my game plan to transfer out of Cardiff for my second year. I had never even heard of Glendon until about 5 weeks ago- and yet I can’t imagine being happy anywhere else.
I had always had such a clear idea of how things were supposed to turn out. But guess what: that’s not how life rolls. Not with birthdays, not with uni, and not with life. And that’s amazing!
So here I am: 21 years old, a second year linguistics major at Glendon who can’t drive, but can survive anything. It wasn’t the path I had imagined- but it was the one that I was made for. So today I will eat cake, I will open my gifts, and I won’t worry about the future whatsoever.
Follow me on instagram @jasminelysia to see the shenanigans of my birthday week!