by Xenia Makridou

Each year my birthday rolls around I reminisce about my previous birthdays. The two which always rank the highest in my thoughts are (not too surprisingly) 16 and 18.

16 On my 16th birthday, I found myself on the Empire State Building in New York, as I was attending an English language summer school in a neighbouring state, Connecticut, in the US. I remember that feeling like it was yesterday. It was freedom. I also remember meeting some acquaintances from back home – which was very strange indeed, considering we found ourselves in that place, at that time, half-way around the world away from home, only to actually see and recognise each other there! After we left, my teachers bought me a piece of cake with a little candle to celebrate. I think that was in Korean Town. This is a thing, right? I hope I remember right!

18 I turned 18 the first day of Tomorrowland 2014, which was also the event’s 10-year anniversary. Again, I remember that feeling like it was yesterday. I believe those were the 3 happiest days of my life. Even writing about it seems like a lie – it’s such an insane experience! This is one of the few things anything one says or writes will ultimately be inaccurate and inadequate – one has to live it to know it.

And… 21.

I can’t say I enjoyed last year’s 20th birthday very much. Although I had a birthday party and most of my friends were there, including my then boyfriend, it just wasn’t very fun for me. I even cried on the day because I felt I was growing old at an alarming speed. This year I didn’t really do anything – I wasn’t in the mood to celebrate anyway. Nonetheless, I did have a family gathering. I can safely say this was my best birthday so far. Although I felt some passing sadness due to my failed relationship of two and a half years, I was grateful and truly happy to have all of my family at my home celebrating me. I felt the love, and that was enough to heal all wounds. I realised at that moment how important family is. I can’t say I took it for granted all these years, but I wasn’t very much appreciative of it either. I am so thankful to have a family, and this particular family most importantly. Those are the people you know will always be there no matter what.

Even the friends I chose to hang out with close to and on my birthday were very select, and everything just felt very at home and loving. The most important things in my life are my amazing family and my lovely friends. This is my answer.