Today I turn 20, at least in hexadecimal numbers. And to celebrate 20h birthday, I’d like to take a look back. Like Christmas, birthdays provide a landmark in the memories of life. I couldn’t tell you where I was on any given June 9, or any August 9. But when it comes to July 9, I remember them all. Here are some of the more prominent memories:
3rd Birthday in Missouri
My third birthday is the first one I remember. I don’t remember much, but I know that my parents had a party. At the time we lived in a 100-year-old “shotgun house” in South St. Louis. I remember marveling at a plastic knife, wondering how anything so dinky could cut anything. I tested it on my finger. It worked.
10th Birthday in Illinois
This was my favorite birthday for many years. My dad and I spent the day running around downtown St. Louis. I don’t remember all the places we went, but I know we went to White Castle. Don’t laugh. At that age it was going to a gourmet restaurant. Afterward we went back to the farmhouse we rented in East Carondelet, Illinois, where my parents gave me my first computer. Our first computer. It was my present, but not my computer. I had to share it with my parents and my sister. Still, I was the main user, and to this day I still have fond memories of our Tandy 1000HX.
21st Birthday in Michigan
I had an unusual 21st. I didn’t celebrate it like a normal college student. Instead of getting wasted in the bars of East Lansing, I had a leadership conference to go to. I was vice chair of the Academic Assembly, and so I got invited to a weeklong conference in Big Rapids, Michigan. This conference was made up of student government leaders from across the state and across the world. And because half of the people there were Dutch or German or Australian, many of my fellow conference-goers didn’t quite grasp the significance if being able to legally drink at 21. Still, they were nice enough to join me in the hotel bar for a pint of Killian’s. Overall, it was a weird experience, celebrating such a significant occasion with people I would never see again.
23rd Birthday in Spain
This is my favorite birthday, and perhaps my favorite day period. I was studying in Santander, Spain. I had just gotten back from my first trip to Barcelona, and I was fixing to go to the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. It was a gorgeous day, and we had class outside. That evening, my closest friends took me out to dinner. Then we joined the rest of our study abroad group for a night of drinking and debauchery. The next day sucked, but at least everyone else was hungover too.
26th Birthday in American Samoa
This one was fairly dull, at least on the day of. I had been living in American Samoa for about six months, and I was getting tired of living on such a small island. To top it off, it was Sunday, and everywhere was closed. At least I got an awesome gift: a ticket to Apia with my sister. We went the following month, and our trip to (Western) Samoa still ranks among my favorite adventures.
31st Birthday in Massachusetts
I spent my 31st birthday at an auto repair shop in Chelsea, Massachusetts. That wasn’t part of the plan, of course. The plan was to hang out in Boston with my mom, who was then living in Montpelier, Vermont. Unfortunately, the car broke down on the trip, hence the time in the repair shop. Still, it beat sitting at home all day.
32nd Birthday in Texas
As I write this, my 32nd birthday (20h for you nerds) is just getting started. I already had a great time with my friends this past weekend, and I’m looking forward to cake and ice cream with my family on Tuesday. As for my birthday itself, only time will tell. Life is meant to be a surprise; I just hope my next big surprise is a good one.