The Big 21

Every year, I throw a birthday tantrum. When I was turning 4 in India I started crying when my friends wouldn't call me "Dum-Dum" when they sang me the birthday song because my grandfather used to call me Dum-Dum and so that's what I wanted. When I turned 13 and my friends didn't decorate my locker at school the way I wanted it on the day I wanted it (my birthday fell on the weekend that year), I wrote an angsty piece about it and published it in the high school's literary magazine because the episode made me lose my faith in humanity a little bit. Not all years are this dramatic; sometimes I would just curl up in my closet and cry on a birth-morning because there was no way the evening could live up to my expectations.

This year's annual hissy fit wasn't that different. I think what freaks me out every year is that I feel like a celebration that is supposed to be for one's entire existence can never be as magical, spontaneous, surprising, and unique as I feel it by definition needs to be. Today was everything I thought a birthday could never be, the day I'm so scared I can never have that every year I'm tempted to throw the towel in the night before, uninvite friends to the party I was planning and stay inside and pout the whole day long.

This post is going to take it #backtobasics and just lay out the events of my day in classic 365 Gap Days style, gushing with gratitude and "inspiration" at every turn. If that sounds too saccharine to you, I suggest you quit reading while you're ahead. :)

November 2, 2014

The first thing to snap me out of my week-long funk on Saturday night was attending EXPerience, this semester's performance by Expressions, Harvard's hip-hop dance company. If there is anything that can make my heart fly out of my chest in elation while I lose my manners and the ability to make interpretable facial expressions, it's the combination of the unreal movements and sick beats that unfolds at a show like this. I was too exhausted by my amazement by the end of the show to even properly congratulate my ridiculously talented friends who had performed, but thankfully Dylan was by my side to escort me out of the hall and ease me back into consciousness afterward.

We retreated to his dorm and my summer roomie made me some soothing tea to sip on while he strummed his guitar and sang to me as we awaited the advent of my 21st. The last chord of Blackbird rung out as my phone flashed midnight and this sweet boy gave me his "happy birthday." We darted out the door to Grafton Street Pub for my first bar experience! I found it only fitting that my birthday cocktail have a Spanish name, so La Primavera it was, flowery and Dyl-icious and infused with cardamom, rose, and grapefruit. We fully exploited the photo opportunity at our hands as we enjoyed one another's presences and the ambiance of the pub, which played everything from Turn Down for What to Dancing Queen, until closing time, and, incidentally, the exact time I was born (2am).

I found myself slightly confused when this same hour rolled around for a second time in the early morning, only to realize that Daylight Savings Time would be giving me a lovely present today!

My next gift was from nature, who decided to send the first snow of the season down to greet the morning of the 2nd. It was tentatively that I planned to venture into the cold and to Peet's to purchase my favorite (mildly addictive) coffee drink, when Pooja and Joe stopped by my room to deliver the very beverage I wanted! I cherished my soy mocha as these beautiful people allowed me to regale them with tales of the night before, for a lovely start to the day.

Then it was off to brunch with three of the humans I've known the longest at Harvard -- my roommate+twin Eliza, my teacher4lyfe Ian, and my besfran Reylon. They put up with my ramblings over sunrise mimosas and delicious Daedalus victuals, and Kirin came by to share her factual and always correct vociferous wisdom with me at the end of our meal.

I stopped at the dining hall to hydrate, and ran into Goretti, Queen of Lowell DHall, who started giving me 21st-birthday-life-advice which included, "find yourself a rich boyfriend!" When I protested this suggestion, we got into a beautiful conversation about youth, love, birthdays, children, marriage, and romance.

My day was already a dream, when in burst my adorable "little sis" Rati, who had braved the snow and taken the T from Tufts to deliver what became the highlight of my day. She and Naveen had collaborated to craft a birthday card so rife with inside jokes on the outside and rich with sincerity and meaning on the inside that it moved me to tears. This darling traveled a distance to utterly surprise me with a gift that at once cracked me up and touched me immensely. She took the time to remind me why I am loved, which in my book is the best thing you can do for someone on a day like this.

Glowing from Rati's words, I met up with Reid for a foray into Central Square to claim the cake that Papa and Priya had collaborated to order for me as part of a classic Gill tradition that originated circa 2006. This year's beauty was a Chocolate Buttercream pastry from Paris Baguette, topped with berries and whole macaroons. The journey gave me time to catch up with one of my favorite people on campus and mentally jot down a host of college bucket list items from someone who has experienced plenty.

Back in my room, I stuffed this masterpiece into my fridge in time to call my actual progenitrix and the reason I am alive! She had been busy posting photos of us back in the day on Facebook all morning (like mother like daughter) and I gave her a quick rundown of the day's beauty before Skyping her favorite child Javier in Colombia and using him as my journal.

Virtual Javier accompanied me back downstairs where I conducted a ritual slaughter&serve of my bakery delight for a lovely circle of close friends. After relishing the moisture of the luscious macaroon adornments atop my baked birthday beauty and the cafe's astonishing attention to detail down to the last candle, I snuck back up to my room to prepare for my last celebration of the day.

This came in the form of a Diwali dinner at the D&D residence, with students from around the college congregating for a lovely pooja and scrumptious meal, home-cooked by the college's seniors, to my palette's amazement! I walked around the event awed by its scale and vibrance, and followed by the ridiculous Sidu&Carl pair eager to give me an adequate amount of friendly grief on my special day.

Post-dinner, I decided that I hadn't been reprimanded/disciplined/teased by Udai enough today, and made him sit with me until I'd had enough of his one-liners and selfie skills. We walked back to our rooms at the end of the day surprised by the brightness of the stars in the recently dreary Cambridge sky.

As I sunk into my bed to steep in this post, a video message popped up on my phone screen, its first frame plain black. I pressed play for a five-minute chronicle of the most raucous, embarrassing, side-splitting highlights of my friendship with Javier. Never have I before giggled audibly to myself alone in my room quite so loudly and for quite so long.

I seem to have managed to surround myself with some of the most loving people imaginable, who know how to express their love and warmth in a way that is unbelievably enviable. I'm not quite sure how this happened, but I don't know how any day could have been more the birthday I always wished for.

Thank you.