A few days ago, I celebrated my 19th birthday. As most of you may know, turning 19 is quite odd. In the United States, turning 18 represents adulthood, while 21 represents being able to consume alcohol legally. In Japan, turning 20 represents both adulthood and being able to consume alcohol legally. In both countries, 19 serves as an odd middle step, where you don’t gain any legal rights but still think to yourself, “damn, I’m getting old.”
As a result, I didn’t expect much out of my 19th birthday. Living away from my parents and friends, I didn’t have anyone to hang out with, not that the pandemic would have let me anyway, and as I mentioned before, 19 just represented getting older.
Here’s how it went:
December 16th, 11:55 pm: Get handed a soccer-ball-shaped cake while proceeding to be immersed in a shower of voices screaming “happy birthday!”
December 17th, 12:00 pm: Wake up to a phone call from the postal service, regretting wasting half of my birthday sleeping. Go downstairs to be handed a huge box filled with cupcakes sent from my family in the US.
December 17th, 7:00 pm: Go to my grandparents’ house to eat sushi and cake.
Though I do love my family and friends, I don’t write this to boast about how great they are. Rather, having a surprisingly eventful birthday in a time where events are hard to come by, really helped me reflect and appreciate the value of friends, family, and personal connections.
Before blowing out the candles on my cake, a friend asked, “What kind of year was 2020 for you?”
To me, 2020 has been a year of new encounters, both physical and metaphorical. I was able to meet this school, the wonderful community it offers, this country, a place I always held a connection with, and friends, new, old, online, and offline.
2020 has been a difficult year, but it has taught me to appreciate and be thankful for everything that I have. Though not everything has turned out the way I expected, I am thankful for the way it did, and look forward to what the rest of my gap year and 2021 has to offer.