Dubai Diaries: Birthdays are both happy and stressful

Birthdays while now reminding me more of my own mortality rather than the promise of a long and happy future, still remain momentous.


Enid Grace Parker

Published: Tue 26 Oct 2021, 8:52 AM

Last updated: Thu 28 Oct 2021, 4:07 PM

Heading out to The Pointe, Palm Jumeirah, to celebrate the birthday of a young cousin over dinner, gave me cause to reflect Sunday night.

It was a lovely, cool evening; we tucked into a delicious meal, took videos of the dancing fountain, clicked photos and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ as the restaurant staff brought over some churros and a firework candle — which thrilled the 20-year-old birthday girl more than anything else.

Hours later at home, as I was on the verge of dozing off, I couldn’t help musing on how, as time passes, our attitude towards birthdays changes.

When you’re a child or teenager/young adult, they always seem to be a cause for celebration and excitement. But after you hit a certain age, they can be daunting.

Now when a birthday of mine rolls around, it can still be fun, an occasion to get together with friends and family and celebrate, and yet, it has lost some of the sheen it possessed back in the days when life seemed to be nothing but a thrilling ride, when youth and good times and good health were things we took for granted.

I remember being at Baskin-Robbins in Karama with a couple of friends the day I turned 17. It was the early ‘90s, we had all just graduated from high school and were on the cusp of a brand new life — college, jobs and who knew what else?

But when we were sitting there enjoying our favourite ice-creams, chatting and laughing, it certainly never occurred to us that the future might be fraught with challenges, that one day we would look back on these moments with a melancholic, almost overwhelming fondness.

“But it was just yesterday that I…” is a sentence that inadvertently pops out when I think about the weight of years of existence every time a birthday comes around.

I guess the best we Generation X-ers can do on birthdays is enjoy moments spent with loved ones, embrace blessings, and focus on healing from tragedies past.

It’s not easy to evolve or accept the realities of life; some of us, like myself, prefer to remain cocooned in happy places — good memories, a book, my favourite music.

And yet, life forces you to emerge from your shell, ever so often. My cousin’s birthday jolted me into reflecting on the fine line between joy and sorrow, youth and old age and how we attempt in our own way to navigate the time we have left.

Despite my occasional yearning to turn back the clock and a fondness for reminiscing, I am ever-grateful for the present; birthdays while now reminding me more of my own mortality rather than the promise of a long and happy future, still remain momentous.

Maybe the next time I turn a year older, that old ice-cream shop in Karama that holds so many memories will beckon me; maybe I will just revel in going down there and having so much to celebrate over the years I’ve lived.

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