Family: Made

I have never been so touched by friendship in my entire life.

My 21st birthday was one I expected to be uneventful, particularly coming in the gloom of upcoming finals in an intensive graduate school program. I have never had an exclusive birthday party, never planned one, much less considered holding one for my magical legalizing birthday.

Thinking back, the last time I ‘celebrated’ was with my best friend as a young teenager. 14 was the last time we had our annual ‘meet-in-the-middle’ dinner with our families. For my 20th, I celebrated by working a 15 hour work day, complete with chasing deadlines for papers and assignments for my online class. On my 19th, I can’t even remember what I was doing that day. For my 18th, my Chinese relatives bought me a cake and my roommate and I enjoyed a slice or two before crashing early to go to our respective internships the next day. For my 17th and younger, I can’t think hard enough to remember how I celebrated.

My birthday has largely been a very solitary, singular, simple ‘celebration’ involving me writing a lengthy letter to my mother and father, telling them how much I love them and am grateful to them for raising and having given birth to me. It’s always been a family thing for me, and one where I remember how much I need to cherish my parents and family.

On my 21st, two of my close friends at IR/PS took me out the night before to stuff me with delicious food and cakes. I was already incredibly touched and mused about how lucky I was the entire night and next day (even though I was too drugged with sleepiness to exhibit any real joy). So when I finished my longest day of the week, all I could ask for at the end of a full day was an early sleep and fond memories of the day’s love, gifts and excitement.

So when my friend called me to tell me he and another one of our friends had something to give to me right before I was planning to eat dinner, I threw on a grimy scarf and walked barefoot with him to her apartment.

I honestly couldn’t figure out what was going on, with the dark and lighted fires of candles on cupcakes. An overwhelming sense of shamelessness and unbridled happiness exploded, however, when I finally tuned into the chant of a birthday song. For me.

Truly, I could not explain how overwhelmed I felt as a few tears pooled, and streaked past my end-of-the-day eyeliner.

Our grad program is by no means easy, and for all the stress it has caused, I could not mask how touched I felt to see so many of my friends show up at all to a quickly assembled party on a late Thursday night.

I felt so incredibly loved. So, very loved.

These last two weeks, I’ve been unexplainably emotionally volatile, constantly thinking about my father. Thinking about what could have been, what had been. And looking through his photos, old videos, and crying. Constantly crying. Missing him.

My family has always been my main form of support. My birthday has always been full bullet-proof level of  that. But on this birthday night, as I read through the loving messages, birthday cards and voicemails from my friends, family and fiancee, I realized how incredibly blessed I was. Now supported by an extended family composed of incredible friends that I could never ask to replace.

For that, I am grateful.


@1 year ago
#family #love #birthday #thegradschoollife