The Implications of Turning 22 In A Foreign City

I have never been much for birthdays; I have always hated the social obligation to gather friends together in celebration. I guess this is because I never had too many friends to begin with, and the friends I do have are islands – they stand alone from each other and I have never liked the idea of bringing them all together. Maybe this is because I’m not confident enough to believe that everyone will get along and have fun, or maybe I’m too paranoid that they will all like each other better than they like me and become BFF and push me out of the group. Despite the latter being a big fear of mine, I think more so the reason I like keeping my friends isolated from each other is so I can maintain different friends for different reasons and avoid living in a claustrophobic vacuum where there is no escaping my immediate friendship group. However, this analysis of my social network is a tangent to the actual point of my story, which is what happened when I spent my birthday overseas for the first time.

I had been living in Toronto for just over four months, and although I was aware that my birthday was fast approaching, I had neglected to make any solid plans. I’m like that with a lot of things in life, I like to ride situations and see where they take me rather than try to manipulate them too much. In other words: I am too lazy to ever make solid plans or organize anything.  Before I knew it, it was the day before my birthday and I was starting to wonder if it would be any good or not. Then, as if a higher power had been reading my mind, a package arrived. It was from my best friend back in Australia, she had sent me a couple of books and a CD. My heart broke with intense feelings of appreciation of her, and at that moment I loved her so much that I couldn’t wait to see her so I could be as good of a friend as possible.

Still feeling good from my package of love, the night before my birthday I went to watch some bands play. This guy whom I was sort of seeing was in one of the bands, so I assumed that we would party afterward and he would stay over and then I could avoid the sadness that comes with having to wake up alone on one’s birthday. So after the show we were hanging out with some of his friends out the front of the venue, and I said something that implied he would be coming home with me. To this he responded, “I can’t tonight, I have too much to do tomorrow” (He would later tell me that he also could not stay over on my actual birthday because he had too much schoolwork). Now, I had been having suspicions that this guy had never had a girlfriend before. When he refused to stay over on the night before my birthday, all of my suspicions were immediately confirmed. I felt like screaming at him “HELLO, HASN’T ANYONE EVER TOLD YOU THAT IF A GIRL WANTS YOU TO STAY OVER FOR BIRTHDAY SEX YOU MUST OBLIGE?” It isn’t even something that regular people need to be told; I thought it was just general knowledge. I didn’t make a big deal out it and after he went home I went back to one of his friend’s apartments because I refused to go home so early. We drunk tea, smoked a huge blunt, listened to good tunes and painted until the early hours. It was really, really nice.

The morning of my birthday a friend took me out for breakfast. It was also nice and I walked home with a skip in my step because it was a beautiful day. And because she had given me some really pretty lipsticks. Later on, I went to the park by my house with my Rastafarian housemate. We smoked a joint and lay in the sun – again, it was nice. Then he took me out for lunch and refused to let me pay for my meal.  This broke my heart again because if you knew this guy you would know that he does not come across as the type to display such acts of friendship. It occurred to me that maybe he had only done it because he thought I had no friends and felt sorry for me. I accepted that as the reason and thought, well, that was really sweet of him.

Then it came to the evening of my birthday, which I think is when you are supposed to have the most fun but was actually when I had the least fun. My Facebook had been flooded with posts such as “Party hard” and “Get silly drunk” so bearing this pressure on my back, I was ready to go for it. A lot of friends had offered to take me out that night but I had turned them down, instead putting all my faith into this one girl who usually was a lot of fun. So I met up with her and we went to comedy night at our local hotbox, which was as good as the night got. Afterward we went looking for somewhere else to go. This girl whom I was with is extremely tight with money, so much so that she wouldn’t even let us catch a taxi anywhere. So there we were, walking around the streets drinking out of a cheap bottle of Whisky. I still didn’t know the city too well and the girl I was with usually delivered the goods but on this particular night was failing hard. I remained optimistic; I mean it was a Thursday night in Toronto, surely there was a dance party waiting for us to have a blast at. On our walk, we had passed many cute lounges that were lit by candles and were full of couples staring into each other’s eyes, or groups of girls laughing with a glass of wine in hand. I wanted this to be me so badly, but this girl I was with wouldn’t even buy a drink in one of these places, I mean she was that cheap.

After walking around the city for too long, during which my friend had made several calls to her boyfriend saying, “Yeah, I’ll be home soon”, I acknowledged that every single one of my party vibes had been killed. Then I had an epiphany. I thought, fuck, I’m 22 now. All of a sudden, I felt too old to be spending nights walking around the streets drinking out of bottles. I wanted sophistication; I wanted to be somewhere nice like all those lounges we had just walked by.  Realizing the night would not amount to that, I was so overcome with sadness that I bailed on my friend and went home.

When I got home, I cried and thought about my ex-boyfriend. I thought about him because I think about him every time I am sad, and also because I knew that he would never have let me sleep alone on either the night before my birthday or my actual birthday itself (at this time I told myself to never fall for a guy again; instead I resolved to be one of those asexual middle-aged aunts that everyone has at least one of whom only wears safari suits). I realize that this failure of having a good birthday was partially my fault for not making more tangible plans. Even though I had been ranting about how much I hate birthdays and how they are just another day, deep down I wanted to have a good one. I knew that my friends back in Australia would never have let me had such a bad birthday, and not only did I feel a perpetual love and gratitude towards them, but I told myself that for my birthday next year, I will bring all of my amazing friends together and have a party. TC mark

More From Thought Catalog

  • Robertbenesh

    I feel like the title diminishes the highly personal feeling of a piece that I feel is otherwise fantastic.

  • http://twitter.com/OkBueno Karen Bueno

    Love it. I turned 24 in New Jersey, being from London, UK all my life. I can relate!

  • lalala

    my 21st birthday falls, as they all do, during my school's finals week.

    i hate birthdays.

  • tslothrop

    Realizing that you are suddenly 22 does not count as an 'epiphany.' It's like looking into the fridge and suddenly realizing that you have no milk: it is a piece of information of such bathos it removes any chance for epiphany.

    Also, turning 22 in a foreign city really isn't much of a big deal: the pressures may come from outside but you decide whether or not you will give into them.

  • jules

    i feel like you're me. loved it.

  • http://twitter.com/t_baugh Travis Baugh

    for my 22nd birthday i baked myself a cake…

  • No1caresprobablysry

    I turned 21 in Burma…it was special but weird and anticlimactic.

  • LDN

    i read this in an aussie accent.

  • http://entropicalia.wordpress.com Alison

    I turned 22 in a foreign city. I have a summer birthday and was sticking around my Euro housing because it was cheaper than going home. But only two people I knew did that too. And yet the night we had managed to become “interesting.” Haven't had such an “interesting” one in a long time, but who knows what will happen in a couple of months.

  • Waicool

    skanking to avoid being lonely is counterproductive.

    • Susie Q.

      your comment is counterproductive

  • Yeon-soo

    My 25th came and went on the Philippine island of Boracay where I was vacationing with a now ex-girlfriend. All day, we had been tagging along with a generous and friendly Korean tour group we didn't actually belong to, enjoying the island's sights at a discounted rate. When it came time for dinner, one of the guide's surprised me with a birthday cake, and the group promptly erupted into a merry round of “Happy Birthday.” I don't think I need to tell you what effect it has on a young man to hear that celebratory song sung by a group of strangers in a second language, trying their best to maintain a lively mood, yet being able to do only so much to cover the fact that they didn't actually remember my name and so couldn't quite hit all of the song's notes.

    I wish you the best on your next go around, though us TC readers especially are well-attuned to the persistence of such things as loneliness, sadness, emptiness and heartbreak, try though we might to defend ourselves against them. We're all young, more or less fine, probably going to be okay. Every year becoming a little more aware of the things that matter. I see this in your post. I hear it in your voice. Here's to hoping we'll go on doing so.

  • http://twitter.com/yanyun92 Lim Yan Yun

    the word “nice”, overused.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    This made me sad. I am sorry you live in Toronto. I am sorry you cried about your ex-boyfriend. I am sad you did not have an 'actual birthday party'. Let me make it up to you.

  • Ted

    You are the worst. Your bad birthday night was entirely your fault. At the very least don't pretend like you don't care about your birthday when you really do. Perhaps that boy you were kind of seeing isn't that into you lol.

    • http://goldenday.tumblr.com Kia Etienne

      you're awful. get a life and stop trolling thoughtcatalog.

  • Pfft

    I don't understand why you wrote this.

  • sheherbano ahmed

    this is..this is not a bad birthday. i am glad for you that you see this as “such a bad birthday” but this is not a bad birthday. seriously, i understand bad birthdays and i understand that it felt anticlimactic and thus bad, and all, but seriously, count your freaking blessings. this article annoys me. i hate commenting negatively but i feel compelled because just..gosh. 

  • juhi

    okay seriously. i have spent two birthdays in a foreign city and this does not even com close to a bad birthday.

blog comments powered by Disqus