a Fijian celebration

On Thursday, August 28th, I am (finally) turning the big two-one. “Ooooh, that’s a big one for you at home, ay”, is the common response I’ve been hearing from my non-American friends. Last October when I convinced myself studying abroad this semester was the right decision I was bombarded with a similar reaction, because in America your 21st birthday activities include legally purchasing alcohol from your local liquor store, legally entering an “21 and over only” bar, and legally taking your first sip (or twelve shots) of alcohol. Throw out that fake id, kid, your legal now.  Twenty-first birthdays have become a celebration of the surpassing of a government mandated law, which sounds a bit mundane. Of course on Thursday night I’ll be in Traps, with a bounty shot in one hand while my free hand sways with the rhythm of the live music. Though I’ve nearly described a typical Thursday night in downtown Suva, this week there will be an extra wave of enthusiasm, a bit more spark, and heaps to celebrate. Birthdays are a celebration of life, an opportunity to look back on your past year, or twenty-one years, and recognize the gift you’ve been given. Laws can add limits to life but life itself has no limits. This I’ve learned through twenty-years of immense growth, and constant change. Through the frightening unknown into the unimaginable discoveries. From my first baby steps beneath the watchful eyes of my Mama and Daddy to my first adult steps onto foreign land, far from any supervision. The mistakes, on mistakes, on mistakes I thought I made and the realization that everything happens for a reason. The salty remains of tears from anger, sadness and hurt easily washed away by tears of laughter and joy. Every significant moment has taught me how to shatter the boundaries we’ve set around our lives.

While birthdays are a celebration of life and a birthday is a celebration of a life, no one is alone on this journey.

To the strangers who have defined a “genuine human connection” and strangers who didn’t for reasons we will never know but must always accept. To my friends, whether there was an hour spent together, days, or years, you’ve accepted me, understood me (or tried to!), encouraged me, and allowed me to follow my spirit. And to those who gave me life, my family.

On Thursday, August 28th I will be celebrating twenty-one years of memories shared with the people I’ve been blessed with. And I couldn’t dream of a better place to celebrate this rairai vinaka bula…

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