Week -3 Twenty first birthdays in crumbling classrooms

Around two weeks ago, I turned twenty one years old.

Twenty one years of breathing, eating, loving, hating, crying , laughing, and for far too many years, merely existing in this world.

Though there are only happy stories surrounding the beginning of my life,  I’ve always had this unshakeable dread of my birthday. The weeks before set off an inexplicable, quiet, deep misery in me that starts as small as a seed, and then shoots up to engulf me on the actual Day Of Gloom.

As much as I’d like to believe otherwise, I suppose I am a pessimist, considering that most of the thoughts running through my head on my birthday are related to all I’ve wanted to accomplish, and all I’ve actually accomplished, the friends I’ve made, to lose just as promptly, and the increasing ugliness of the world around me.

Happy, happy thoughts for someone who tries ever so hard to have her chin up, and never ignore the sun.

When I think back, though, it has been a long while since I had a good birthday, and that adds to it, for sure.

I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this birthday either. I’ve been seriously doubting a lot of decisions I’ve taken, and lamenting many situations I’ve found myself in. Added to that, twenty one has a sort of finality to it, like it signals an entry into full blown adulthood, with no room for learning by trial.

All that being said and felt, when I look back at my birthday now, I have to say, it was pretty special in more than a few ways.

The kids I teach knew my birthday was coming, and so I expected a few drawings and cards which they so love to make. What they actually did left me at a loss of words. They shut me out of my own classroom, strung balloons everywhere, draped fairy lights on the board, got bundles of candy, a cake with lots of cream, and one of those sparkler candles that lights up high like a fire cracker. Another bunch made me a giant tumbler of juice, a book filled with messages from all of them, and held an entire games session.

I’ve never had a sparkler candle, may I add.

I haven’t taught these kids for very long, and definitely don’t love them as yet. I thought they felt the same about me, but now I’m not so sure. I know I haven’t always given them my best, and here they were showering me with all this love and affection and warmth and excitement. Kids are probably the strangest, funniest, most infuriating, and curious-est little creatures I’ve seen. And for all the fury and panic they fuel into me with so much ease, right now, I wouldn’t trade my job for anything else. For some reason, they showed so much faith in me, and gratitude for just doing my job, that I feel the beginnings of a change in long held fears. I know I’m too harsh on myself very often, and while this could count as pushing myself, it does also mean I’m ignoring my sun.

My week ended on an equally nice note. The bestest-boy-ever whisked me away to some of our old favourite places, and arranged for my friends and I to cycle around the prettiest part of Bombay. We cycled around on a warm Sunday evening, bruised out butts, ran into plenty of cars, got lost and separated multiple times, and didn’t really stop laughing for a second.

It was definitely a refreshing change from the usual pattern of my birthdays, but some habits don’t die so easy. I can still feel the repugnance I felt on my birthday, at the thought of being twenty one. I’m still terrified of all the responsibility I’m supposed to carry on a regular basis, and the complete lack of faith I have in myself to behave like a self aware, mature adult.

I feel, and probably resemble and behave as well, like a thirteen year old. I’d love to have my own style of dressing and thinking and living and being, but I’m at the same stage a thirteen year old would be with this. And so, I found myself scratching this into my notebook.

Keeping along with wanting to behave like an opinionated, knowledgeable adult but failing to be one completely, I’m very unimpressed by how this entire post is just about me. The thirteen year old me, however, is done thinking about it, and has moved on to wishing I’d bought myself a round of cookies, conveniently ignoring how broke I am. I’m beginning to feel that the thirteen year old me is just as cool, and maybe I shouldn’t give her such a hard time for wanting to be me, in all my clueless glory.

And definitely, those cookies would’ve been great company for typing all this out.

Much love,

Zeba didi.

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