I grew up in the halfway house of cultures. There was my mother, who was everything the typical Chinese woman was not, openly deriding and scoffing at every Chinese practice and belief in the market. And there was my father, too impatient to deal with the tedium of said Chinese practices and beliefs, but also subconsciously adhering to them when he thought nobody was watching.
But the one thing they both resolutely believe in is the Chinese symbolism behind numbers. Be it for their car license plates, phone numbers, and even home addresses, they cling to the numerical superstition that anything with a 1, 2, 3, 6, 8 and 9 must be fortuitous, and anything with a 4 or 7 tempts the wrath of the gods.
So when my mother called to tell me that I would be celebrating my 28th birthday with them on the 11th, and I tried to politely decline any celebrations of any sort, she firmly stated, “You are turning 28. It’s a good number. We must celebrate that.”
I didn’t want to tell her that at 28, I still had nothing to my name, and therefore there was technically nothing to celebrate.
Over the last few months, and more so in the last few weeks leading up to this day, I’ve been thinking about how far I’ve come since my quarter-century birthday (and when I say ‘far’, I don’t mean actual progress, because there has been so little that it’s not worth evaluating). And a result of this assessment is the extremely acute realization that, at 28, I’ve never been surer of what I want in my life – and it was most definitely not what I wanted at 25.
When I think back to what I wanted when I was 24 leading up to 25, I can’t help but feel that it led me to waste the next three years of my life waiting and hoping for something that would never happen. That subsequently led me to waste those three years wallowing in self-pity over my predicament of being stuck in a country I never wanted to come back to, and seething in self-loathing over putting so many things – and so many people – ahead of my own needs and plans.
And now here I am at 28, jaded, disappointed and faced with a decision that I will have to make before the year is over. It will be an incredibly difficult and heartbreaking decision that will leave me devoid of any emotion for a long time to come, but one that will ensure I don’t enter yet another new year with this resentment and bitterness hanging over my head.
Every year, on my birthday, I know I am not where I intended to be at that age, and the realization has never been clearer than it is now. I am most certainly not where I thought I would be at 28, but I will definitely have to start steering myself in that direction. I am more aware now than ever before that I will never be able to depend on anyone but myself for my own happiness and security, and the fact that I spent three and a half years doing just that is a testament to how I allowed my life to spiral completely out of control, and how I simply cannot allow it to continue any longer.
So welcome, 28. You were a long time coming.