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An Unprecedented Birthday In Unprecedented Times

What I wanted was time of solitude.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

My birthday “Wish List” this year !

As my 44th birthday approached this year, my loved ones asked me, “Alpa what is your birthday wish list?”  I spent a couple of days to truly ponder over my wish list and what I intuitively knew was I did not want to tie my birthday this year with societal expectations. I did not want to tie it with material gifts either. What I wanted was time of solitude. 

By personality I am an extrovert. I love people, I love merrymaking, I love celebrations and everything that comes with it. That explains all my general actions as I’m the notable sign of being a Sagittarius. Sagittarians generally tend to enjoy their freedom and these sudden feelings may have been my virtue screaming to be dominant during this period of celebrating me.

I was grinning with the thought of being free of responsibilities. While taking a shower I was imagining a day to myself doing things that I want, spending the day the way I want and living truly under the sole influence of myself without any checklist and to do. I am an entrepreneur and a proud mother of three lovely children and a very loving and supportive husband. We have been married for 22 years -two of my children are young adults but my youngest is still just 7 years old who consumes a lot of my undivided attention. Being the youngest in the family he takes full advantage of being pampered, who wouldn’t? 😊

The pandemic required me having to play multiple roles during the day like any other woman who has work, is a wife and a mother. I felt like I was job hopping in various roles. Having a day just to myself sounded irresistible. 

So that was it, my 44th birthday wish list was 48 hours of my life just for me, myself and I. As inter-state travel was not allowed due to the conditional lockdown, I intentionally picked a staycation, or rather self-cation (as my older son calls it) at Mandarin Oriental. Needless to say, 3 days and 2 nights I was already building castles in the air.

Breaking the Birthday Standard operating Procedures SOP !

There are standard operating procedures for birthdays that society has created whereby being with family, friends, and loved ones is a norm but being with anyone but alone is questionable. People wonder if something is wrong. I was not spared from the perception. I received responses aligned with the perception from my near and dear ones.

“Pa what did you do to mum that she wants to be alone on her birthday?

“Go with Manish (my husband) I will babysit your son”

“Is everything OK between you and Manish?”

“Are you hiding anything from me? Are you OK?”

“Make sure you come back”

And so on and so forth….

Despite all these worries, I embraced the road less travelled and it made all the difference.

Broke the birthday SOP now what?

Once my birthday arrangement was confirmed, I had the task of planning the agenda for the 3 days. I wanted an agenda which met my intent.  I started with the question, “What was my intent of a birthday with self? “. What came to me was my desire to liberate myself from every other responsibility but myself. 

On my birthday which was on 4th of December I started the morning with my family. After having a family lunch and seeking blessings from God, I set on for my solo trip overexcited. The first activity on my itinerary was to have a five- course meal at a restaurant called Skillet 163 to celebrate “Myself”. I thought it was very outlandish to go for a fine dining meal alone, what more on my birthday but to my surprise, I did not feel out of place. I did get conscious every now and then when I noticed the gaze of people turn to me. Were they wondering why this woman is alone? But soon, I took that in humorous spirits, especially when the waiters of the restaurant asked me, “ Why are you alone?”. I guess this also went to show, in a city like Kuala Lumpur, dining alone is not a norm. However, I went home to my hotel room that night, satiated to the brim with good food and happy that my first experience of dining alone was a success. 

The second day came and my itinerary here was around having some undisturbed time to work, pampering myself with a spa, shopping as I was strategically located next to a mall and spending some time reading. As I went through the day, my itinerary felt perfect as I intended to have uninterrupted, peaceful quality time with myself which started off with a hearty Indian breakfast at the hotel. 

The third day came and I woke up prepping my mind to brace my responsibilities again. I started the morning with a long walk, soaked myself in the bathtub with a book, while setting the intention to reset myself to be back with my loved ones to share joy and give them tender loving care. I have to admit, albeit only 48 hours, I did start missing them a little bit.

Will I be judged?

While I absolutely enjoyed my time alone, I wouldn’t be honest if I said I wasn’t conscious about what others may say. Does it make me a less responsible wife and mother for having wanted some time to myself? Will it make others think I am running from my duties? The answer to all of that is no, but I couldn’t help but to wonder. 

I spend every day bringing my best self to my husband, my children and my work, but I wasn’t sure if people saw that. However, this birthday I decided that what people think will not affect me as I knew what I needed to continue being my best self for my family – that was time alone to rejuvenate. As we all have heard a reminder announcement in flights to put our oxygen mask first before putting them on for others. If we take care of ourself, we will strive in taking care of our loved ones.

 I want to continue working towards shaking off the guilt that comes with sometimes putting myself first, and would like to encourage others to do the same. Whether the rest understand or not, I am sure one woman to another always will.  

In 48 hours, I was rejuvenated, ready to go home and surprised with how at ease I felt during my first solo self-cation. I chucked when I told myself ‘It was nice to meet you Alpa 😊”.

 Would self- cation be the direction for all my coming birthdays? Why not, if I feel the need to meet myself again.

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Alpa Shah
Written By

Alpa empowers young adults in finding their purpose and passion through careers and life beyond academics. She advocates the importance of career education for students as young as in high school through student mentorship, work experience, and skill development. She aims to reduce skills mismatch and youth un-employment through her company, Future Leaders Internship Program (FLIP). FLIP is a pioneer in the school internship segment and one of the first to introduce internships to high school students. FLIP has been selected as The Best Career Consulting Firm in South East Asia Awards 2020 by APAC. Follow her on FLIP and LinkedIn

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Tushar

    14th December 2020 at 6:15 pm

    Very well written, gives me an insight on how I would like to celebrate my birthday.

  2. Avatar

    Jignesh Shah

    15th December 2020 at 12:51 pm

    Very well scripted. The line ‘ it was nice to meet you Alpa ‘ will be itched in my memory.

  3. Avatar

    Jigna Malani

    15th December 2020 at 1:16 pm

    Very well penned, Alpa. Its true sometimes, we need to go beyond the mirror to meet ourselves.

  4. Avatar

    Minoo

    17th December 2020 at 2:51 pm

    Amazing! I feel everyone of us must introspect spend some time in solitude.. great article..

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