birthday blues

When I realised I would be on my own for my twenty-ninth birthday I decided to make the best of it. I’d never spent a birthday alone before – it would be a new experience, ripe for reflection.

A few years ago I began to suspect that at heart I’m an optimist. I used to say I was a ‘realist’ (a euphemism with a superiority complex if ever there was one). But it turns out that when I miss the bus and have to walk home I think, isn’t it great to get a good long walk in, and now I can listen to that podcast.

So I buckled down and searched for the sunny side.

It wasn’t hard to find. I’d spent weeks surrounded by friends, old and new; soon I’d be meeting up with some family; the magic of the internet keeps me in touch with home. There are isolated people in the world but I am not one of them, I thought. Some people have nobody to remember their birthday – I had people asking me weeks in advance where to post ‘a little something’ to.

Anyway I enjoy being alone, and as all you fellow introverts will attest, ‘alone time’ is just another way to say ‘super fun times’. I like to think this is partly borne from a childhood of bookshelves rather than TV channels, a big old farm to roam about on, and parents whose response to the complaint of boredom was the threat of “well, I can find something for you to do”.

Well, I said to myself as I mused on the prospect of an alone-time birthday, I can find something for you to do.

In fact, it dawned on me, I could do just as I pleased. Anything I wanted! It doesn’t get much better! I was getting a bit over-excited.

July 20th. I woke up in Bratislava as a newly minted twenty-nine-year-old and all of my bravado faded. I had flown in the previous evening, it was so hot that even I with my super-sleeping-powers hadn’t slept well, and I was feeling the strangeness of a new, foreign place. I felt really far from home.

Being lonely is different to being alone; I consider it a blessing that I’ve never experienced loneliness before. But I am getting a little taste of it just recently and something about having a birthday brought it to the fore. I happen to think this is a good thing though. I am not unbearably, unendingly lonely, not even close. I’m having a grand adventure and enjoying nearly every moment (the moments I don’t enjoy are the ones where I’m lugging my bags around a rail station trying to find platform 8 in the two minutes I have to make my connection). Feeling a bit lonely from time to time is a good thing because it helps me understand that life isn’t always comfortable, and because it might just make me a tiny bit stronger and a little more empathetic.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t miss people.

As for my birthday, it was a nice day in the end: I had some totally lovely chats via Skype, wandered the pretty streets of Bratislava and enjoyed a cocktail. But when my mood picked up two days later and I suddenly got excited about this new city I gave the solo celebration another crack. I had a pedicure for the first time ever, and took myself out for dinner. It was so hot I was practically dripping sweat onto the plate, and the beauty salon was between a Harley Davidson showroom and a cemetery, but these quirks actually made me enjoy myself more. I wouldn’t find this at home, I mused – and there was the silver lining.



  1. Gweneth

    Oh, oh, oh, I LOVE your writing Kiri!!! What a very special gift you have!
    Every time I visit “Places Other Than Home, your finely crafted turn of phrase, with the quirky little details, succeed in picking me up and carrying along with you on your wonderful adventure!!!
    Thank you!!!

    Sending my love across the oceans…
    xxxxx Aunty Gweneth


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