My birthday was celebrated this year over two days, in two parts, as an ending to the age of 17 (the one that has restrained me so often.) and a welcoming to 18. (The only downside being that I’ll no longer receive the shocked “you’re only 17!?” Which is sometimes quite fun.)
We began the 20th of June in Switzerland and set off to hike up to Aescher cliff for lunch. A friend from Germany met us and up we went, a pit stop at a lake in the mountains, another for trail mix and cookies.
I’ve come to love the feeling of taking a step up and feeling as though your leg could propel you up into the heavens. Like its power is supernatural. This was happening and my mood was rising in proportion to the rising altitude.
It went all too quickly and we found ourselves at the restaurant on the cliff before I was hungry- until I smelt the food, these huge crunchy potato hash browns and fresh salad. Paragliders flew up and past the restaurant, reminding me and exciting me for my birthday present. (a paragliding course.)
We chatted with fellow hikers- kind locals who do this walk often- before continuing up to the final point of our climb. Wandering through a cave the air clung to my skin, a layer of icicles.
This type of air always was energising, leaving me to run up with an odd gait, my knees abnormally high with every step. All a mission for warmth, combined with an outburst of energy desperate to be used.
And we arrived, looking over what feelt like all the lands. Land to cover, depressions and impressions to wander in and over, air to fly through.
The day ends in Germany, bathing in thermal mineral baths, sipping up some of the best mojitos I’ve had and demolishing far too much Thai.
“This is my birthday day.” I announced, because it was everything I’d wanted.
The next day, far from Australia and familiarities, my parents fell into my bedroom to wake me “happy birthday!” And home was brought to me. Cards from my grandmas we’re presented, alongside a coffee.
We were headed to Strasbourg, back to France to join in on their celebrations for ‘la fête de la musique,’ (or rather, everyone in France joined in on my birthday celebrations by filling the streets with music.)
The main squares held big acts, stages, lights and crowds. Along the streets were marching bands, Zumba and capoeira displays, American Indian folk music, young musicians encircled with young fans, DJs met by dancing crowds…
In a backstreet we stumbled into what felt like an intimate affair, kind of impromptu jazz and hip hop. A guy danced up to us, signalling to take some shakers.
I received birthday messages, and a beautiful video, from home which brought me a lot of joy and a little sadness. I met a guy last month who confided he wished to spend his birthday at a remote house in a rice field wth no communication. A good idea perhaps. Still (still! I have heard tales that this battle is around, for some, for life.) I’m in that battle of being where I am, with who I’m with. I can’t say whether or not an isolated rice field would have solved this, but it’s a possibility I didn’t offer myself.
I want to be free now, of these ideas that better things await or that better things are occurring else where. It is true the moments in transit, the moments alone or when things go wrong are not exactly going to leave me singing in the hills. But things are happening, big things, right here! (Maybe a few counties away but that’s where I’m headed!)
I have wandered into the age of 18, and never has an age sounded so sweet. No more hostels that won’t accept me, no more skydiving in Hawaii that I can’t do, no more drinking hiding behind rocks, no more couch surfing I can’t join, no more venues refusing me entry, no more visas I can’t attain.
My parents asked me of my proudest moments up till now, a lot of which fell into the space of these last six months… I’m still filled with fear at the most minute of responsibilities, still overwhelmed so easily.
But reflection is a kind thing. Clarity is found in this distance, obstacles passed sit in clear view out on the planes I’ve crossed. Mountains line up before me, ready to be climbed.