I turn 19 in eleven days, which means it’s been almost three years since my sixteenth birthday and I can probably talk about it without cringing too much. I’m not sure that’s possible, but let’s find out, shall we? My sixteenth birthday was spent on a biology trip near Mendocino, CA. Before I go into the full story, let's quickly review the events that transpired:
- I got lost in Costco. Twice
- I had to kill harmless sea bug things that live in shells.
- I caught a kitchen towel on fire.
- And then, as if that wasn't enough, two days later on Halloween, I threw up all over the cabin floor while watching Mulan.
I think it's important to mention that when I found out the biology trip started on my birthday, I almost didn't go. It took me a few days to decide what to do, and even then, after deciding to go, I wasn't sure it was the right decision. But I went anyway, my mom's advice to stick with my choices still ringing in my ear. I got in the car with four of my best friends (who sang happy birthday to me once every hour, on the hour) and was surprised to hear that before we could go to Mendocino, our driver had to stop at Costco so we could actually have food during the trip. Here's the thing- I've always sort of, kind of, really hated Costco. I've never had a good experience, and this birthday trip was certainly no exception. While there, I got lost twice and both times it took me a few minutes to find my friends. It is worth noting that while it's never fun being lost somewhere, being lost on your birthday is worse. Needless to say, I was very happy when our little group finally left Costco.
Like I mentioned, we were going to Mendocino for a biology trip. The main activity of our first day (my birthday) was going to the nearby tide pools to collect the harmless sea bug things and store them to talk about later. To do this, you had to take a knife and scoop them out of their shell and then put them in a plastic bag (this would kill them, by the way). Now, take a minute and think about all you know about me. It's been two years, you've learned a lot about me in that time. Do you think this is something I would enjoy? You're right, I absolutely hated it. I hated it so much, in fact, that I actually started to cry. I didn't bring a knife with me (obviously), so someone else lent me theirs, and I never used it. Instead, I wandered off to the side a little, next to some rocks and called my mom. I missed her. In that moment, I whole heartedly regretted my decision to spend my birthday away from my home and my family. I was sad, and I really didn't want to stay at the tide pools where the little organisms were practically being massacred. But I stayed, talked to my mom, and tried not to cry.
Before leaving for the trip, everyone who was going had to sign up for a day and a meal to help make. Me and a few of my friends decided to sign up for the first meal because we figured then it was over with and we wouldn't have to worry about it later. I was put in charge of beans, and had been told to wrap a towel around the handle of the pot so I wouldn't burn my hand. While stirring the beans, the towel somehow caught on fire. I took the towel off the handle and held it out in front of me, paralyzed in fear. A friend of mine grabbed the towel and shook it to put out the fire. So, yeah, I set a towel on fire and just stood there because I didn't know what to do. After eating, my group went back into the kitchen to clean up, and at some point I was left alone, drying a dish. I was told I wasn't allowed to leave the kitchen, and I quickly realized why when I heard whispers from my friends behind the door. I was finally allowed back into the dining area, and set in front of a makeshift cake made of tiny brownies. People sang happy birthday, and there's a video somewhere in which I look extremely uncomfortable. I was happy though, because even though there had been a few sucky moments on my birthday, my friends had still done something to celebrate it.
A couple days later, on our last day of the trip, everyone in my cabin decided to watch Mulan after learning that I'd never seen it before (spoiler alert- I still haven't). A couple people on the trip hadn't been feeling great, but everyone had been fine after a few hours. I, on the hand, started feeling incredibly nauseous about a quarter of our way through the movie. Halfway through, I had to go back to my own bed because I was feeling so awful. While my friends continued to watch the movie, I lay in my bed, trying to figure out why I wasn't feeling great. At one point, after all the lights were turned out, I got up and tried to get into the bathroom. It was a really dark cabin, and I couldn't find the right door knob. My searching took too long, and I wound up throwing up all over the floor. My dear friend (like the angel she is) took it upon herself to clean everything up so I could go back to sleep.
So, yeah. Not my best birthday (or birthday weekend), and not exactly a sweet sixteen. My 16th birthday was the first year I was away from any family for the majority of the day. My 19th birthday, which is in a couple weeks, will be the first birthday I spend without any family at all. This has got me to thinking about how we build families for ourselves. I'm pretty lucky that my birthday is right after Parent's Weekend, so I'll have my mom there for the days before my birthday, but for my birthday itself, I won't have any family around. I will, however, have my roommate. I'll have those in my acting class. I'll have the people I work with, the classes that make me happy, and an environment that never seizes to make me smile. I feel very lucky to be surrounded by all these people, and I figure as long as I don't have to kill little sea bugs, it'll be a pretty great birthday.