It’s funny how much can change in a year. I found myself in completely different places, literally and figuratively, from where I spent my birthday last year. My birthday has always been a “bookmark” moment for me. It’s a day when I reflect on what I’ve done in the past year, the people I have in my life, and what I can do to improve in the coming year.
From ages 16-20, I found myself in the same spot year after year. I definitely enjoyed it, but in hindsight I was a bit stuck. It only occurred to me during my birthday this past month that ages 21-23 were/are/will be completely different birthdays. Each birthday was/is/will be (wow this past/present/future tense thing is hard haha) distinctly different from the previous one, as I find myself turning the chapter to a different part of my life.
July 4, 2016 – 21st birthday
Halfway through a 12-day backpacking trip around Vietnam and Cambodia, I spent my 21st birthday in the secluded island of Koh Rong with my friend and my (ex) bf. We spent the day traveling on a bus from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, then taking a ferry from Sihanouk. to Koh Rong. From there, we were picked up on a smaller boat and were brought to a deserted part of the island, Longset Beach. It was a 4km stretch of white sand and nothing else. There was only 1 “resort” and a restaurant next to it (I use the term resort loosely cause our accommodations were just a nipa hut, which I loved). The only people on our side of the island were the resort staff, a couple, and a backpacker whom we had met earlier.
We spent the rest of the day swimming and walking on fine, white sand along the beach. My favorite part of the day (and our visit) happened at night. We went into the ocean after dinner, at around 9pm, ran our hands back and forth in the water and were captivated by the glowing bioluminescent plankton surrounding us. It was one of the most magical experiences I’ve ever had in my life. It’s hard to put the experience into words, but that’s what I love most about the ocean — it puts things into perspective. It humbles you and it grounds you when you feel like you’re a little piece in this earth. Every movement illuminated the thousands of little plankton that were surrounding you, so for over 30 mins there were three people joyfully dancing in the ocean that night in Koh Rong.
July 4, 2017 – 22nd birthday
I don’t know bout you… but I’m feeling 22!!!!!!!!!
It’s ridiculous how many times I listened to that song play on my birthday haha it’s a rite of passage into 22, isn’t it?
So I spent my 22nd birthday walking around Vancouver with my best friend. It was just like any other day — we went to my favorite sushi restaurant, walked down to False Creek and just talked till our legs started to burn under the sun. Later on, I had dinner with mom and Patch in Trattoria for some delicious pasta and creme brûlée. Then we went to a comedy club for 1.5 hrs of laughter. When the weekend came around I went out with a few friends for a (forgettable) night. Let’s just say I’m laying off hard alcohol for the rest of the summer.
Despite the low-key celebration, I enjoyed my birthday. I was reflecting on how it’s my last year here in Vancouver, meaning I’m moving away in less than 6 months. More than anything, it was an overwhelming sense of gratitude for being able to live in this beautiful city for the past 8 years. I’ve spent more than a quarter of my life in Vancouver and it’s shaped me into the person I am today. I hope to bring all the good of Vancouver back with me to Manila at the end of the year, but until then I’ll savour the moment.
July 4, 2018 – 23rd birthday
As for where I hope to be next year… First of all, GRADUATED. THAT’S FOR SURE.
I hope I just came back from a trip around Spain with Pia, completing a certificate degree along the way. I hope I ate my body weight in tapas and paella, got ridiculously drunk on Sangria and danced nights away with my sister.
Most importantly, I hope I got into the med school of my choice. This time next year, I hope I am gut wrenchingly nervous about entering med school — anxious about meeting new people, buying the full spectrum of highlighter colors, worrying about the workload, and questioning my decision for yet the hundredth time (and coming to the same conclusion). Despite all that, I hope I feel a sense of pride and achievement, for getting as far as I hoped.
Until then, I’ll be studying hard to get my GPA as high as it can go, working and saving up (cos lawwwd knows I won’t be earning money for the next 5 years), studying for the NMAT, spending time with my friends and enjoying all that Vancouver has to offer.
This chapter of my life is close to an end, but I’ll enjoy the last few pages until it does.