She – a long time friend who’s now based in France – asked for friends to send her birthday cards (not the virtual cards) on the day she turned 40. And her friends – including me – honored that request by inundating her mailbox with just that. It was her way of marking what others have touted to be the start of life. I thought of borrowing her idea and for two years I planned of doing just when I hit the big 4-0. It’s just a couple of days before the counter turns 40 but I never asked her for permission to borrow her idea and I never asked any of my friends to.
It’s been three months since I packed my bags for Bekasi, Indonesia, for a break from a life in another country that had reached a dead end. The past three months have been filled with epiphanies and self- rediscovery. New friends, new routine and new surroundings – the perfect recipe to move on after stumbling and wallowing at the crossroads of life. And a birthday package from back home is set to arrive soon – I love getting presents! However, birthday package aside, I find myself beset by the old feelings of being at the crossroads again, plagued by loneliness and regrets that have descended from nowhere and planted themselves on my head. Making lesson plans and jousting with recalcitrant students who have yet to learn the meanings of diligence and academic integrity help, but when the school bell rings, they weigh on my shoulders heavily.
I see his face over and over again. The firmness and resolve I built through the months in facing the fact that the decision to part was all for the best are crumbling amidst the intense longing and desire to turn back the hands of time. Turning old arguments in my mind, looking for signs of love and reconciliation burn through me and leave me in abysmal despair. A song, a smile from a colleague, the calls for prayer, a line once heard crack open the vaulted memory banks of a past long gone and overwhelm my consciousness until I feel I’m drowning.
Broken friendships sail on the waves of lost love as well. Was I too caught up in the friendships that I didn’t see their true colors? Was it just a joy ride because I was the next available person for the ride?
Meanwhile, old school wounds have stowed away on the boats of broken friendships and lost love. Episodes of the high school bully jog through my mind. Intimidated by my ease in speaking in English, among other things, she and her cohorts of equal vacuity resorted to accosting me in hallways or classroom to warn me against speaking in English. Then there’s that cretin masquerading as a teacher who despised people who didn’t subscribe to her religion. And there’s the “best friend” in elementary who decided, with a drop of a hat, to change best friends. She favored the new girl who had tons of Hello Kitty bits and pieces with her. I only had Peanuts and a couple of My Melody items.
Is this what the big 4-0 is all about? The ghosts of the past dropping by unexpectedly and at the time when you think you’ve finally awakened to days brimming with happiness and high hope? That you’re besieged with that feeling of missing out on life as old high school friends plaster their Facebook profiles with wedding and family photos, and former students of the births of their first newborns?
A friend’s story of how her friend is once again battling cancer hop-scotches through my thoughts suddenly. I have a lot to be grateful for – I’m in perfect health except for the occasional stress-induced headaches and tummy problems. My old-new profession lets me be of service to people instead of pleasing Neanderthals and their massive egos. My family back home is kept safe by the universe. My true friends are thriving despite the occasional spanners thrown by the mischievous deities. I harbor no ill feelings towards foes and, as dictated by the rules of decency, wish them well.
I still remain grateful and try never to forget to express my gratitude to the universe yet the heaviness and hopelessness in my heart remain. If only the universe could spell out what I have to learn from the old wounds festering inside. That’s wishful thinking, isn’t it? Yoga is still the antidote although sometimes something stronger is needed except I don’t know what it is.
Is this what the big 4-0 is all about? One thing is certain though. I always look forward to my birthday because it’s my day. A visit to Hard Rock Café, Jakarta is in the pipeline among other things. It’s the day after that I’m apprehensive. I’ll be 40 and a day old. What’s next universe?