My two birthdays

As you read this, assuming it is still Monday, I'll be enjoying the time-honoured expat tradition of having two birthdays.

It'll be October 14 in New Zealand, my actual birthday, but Sunday the 13th here in America. I'm going to act like it is actually my birthday anyway, because it is Sunday and on Sunday fun, indulgent, birthday-like things can happen, whereas Mondays are given over mostly to dull, morose, Monday-like activities.

It's great, the two birthday thing. Forty-eight hours of Facebook wellwishes. Two days of "oh, I guess I'll treat myself, it is my birthday"-type thinking.

I'm 29 on the nose, today. This will be the last birthday I will celebrate as a 20-something. This is OK. I'm not overly sentimental on birthdays. They're actually kind of nice when you can look back on years well spent, right?

I've now spent six of the 10 birthdays I celebrated in my 20s in America. I haven't marked the turning of the years in New Zealand since I was 25. Then I threw back some drinks at the San Francisco Bath House and had dinner with friends at Café Istanbul, where I used to go all the time but just now had to use Google to recall the name of.

That feels like a while ago. I guess. As I have progressed to be adult, but not ancient, it's a small joy of any birthday to sit back and think about how things that don't feel like they happened so long ago, actually happened some time ago.

In the past few days I've kept coming back to the six out of 10 birthdays thing. It's a figure that gives sense to how my 20s have slowly been given over to American life.

Time in itself is a funny thing when viewed in larger stretches. I see it as this, I grasp for significance and what matters in the moment, but you never really know in the greater scheme of things what's going to change your life. It's odd how so much of what comes to dominate the passing of time and all these birthdays is... chance.

Meeting one person in my life set everything on a whole new geographic course.

I met LP almost 10 years ago in San Diego. When prone to wistfulness on occasions like birthdays, I think of how easily we might have not met.

All these tiny things had to add up.

I had to want to come to America. Which I did, for arbitrary reasons like it seemed cool and my university offered exchanges there. I had to choose the University of California (it was first in my listed top three, over universities in Texas and New York) and then get assigned to my third choice from within that network (I listed Berkeley and Los Angeles as my top preferences).

My exchange coordinator then had to lose my paperwork for the international student hall of residence at UC San Diego and I had to go on a waitlist for university accommodation (all the while house-hunting like a madman as a 19-year-old in a strange city).

I had to get picked up off that waiting list for accommodation and get placed in an apartment with someone who was friends with LP and then cross paths with her on one seemingly inconsequential, but in retrospect fateful, evening.

It was almost three years until things became serious, but from the notion to spend one birthday abroad has come five more abroad, and (I hope) many more after this.

I didn't know when I first came to America at 19 that I was doing anything other than having an adventure, but as New Zealanders and world explorers, when you throw ourselves out into the great beyond sometimes life happens. These past years are proof of that for me.

In many ways my 20s have been defined by establishing an adult life that has led me away from New Zealand.

I don't know what my 30s will be marked by, or what smaller decisions I'm making now that will set me on my way.

For now, I'll have to ease the pain of not knowing with the ice cream cake LP made for my birthday that's taunting me in our freezer.

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