36th Year: New memories and one wish

If the universe shows you a new path to take, put a spring in your step and go. You will have questions. You will have fears. But always remember that your time on the road to a good life will bring new things, new memories; good things, good memories.

This year has been a rollercoaster of events, periods of lull and loneliness to moments too special and poignant yet brief. Shifting from a comfortable life into a high gear filled with terrifying changes; all points to one thing — a reminder that this is what it means to say you’re alive.

For folks who really know me and how I celebrate my birthdays, this year offered a colossal difference to how I went about my special day. Moving to a new place (a different country) with no friends and family, I had to make an effort to fashion the occasion to be less depressing than one might think it to turn out. You make your own happiness. This gives you fuel to know and act on what you can do.

Sasha Manuel at 50th Street Cafe, Restaurant & Bar

Friday night, folks I work with helped fill in some of the blanks. I had appreciated, albeit embarrassingly, the moment when the birthday cake was presented with the obligatory blowing out of the candles with the birthday song sung in varying keys in the background.

Birthday Cake: Grilled Fish Birthday Cake

But what made my birthday most special was the photowalk I did Sunday. I chose to visit Shwedagon Pagoda at dusk. It was my second time. ‘Twas last year when I first set foot on there but this year was my first to take serious photos of the place.

It’s a mixture of precursory spiritual invocation and topical gratification of art and days of old. I am an alien. This is not my religion but the veneration I had felt is something I’m glad I experienced that day.

One Wish

Sasha Manuel, Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar | The Parody by Sasha Manuel

As how I understood this practice, one seeks to ring the bell for: one, to release all the good things that has happened to her, you may call it good karma, and offer it as a form of blessing to her family, both living and dead, and two, to wish for one thing you desire as you enter the new year of your life. Then ring the bell six times.

The experience was ethereal.

Apparently, folks customarily do this, visit Shwedagon Pagoda, on their birthday. It’s interesting to realise that how I ended up celebrating my birthday turned out to be a local custom, rooted on Buddhism. We calculated that I was born on a Thursday so if I were a Buddhist, I would be offering prayers and flowers, lighting up incense sticks, and water offerings to the Buddha/Pagodas located in any of the two Thursday spots at the Shwedagon Pagoda.

Curiously, I did have just one wish on all instances I had been required to make one. It seemingly echoes what most of the people close to me have been wishing for me as well.

So yea, while most folks are marking this time of the year as how the rest would mark it, it has always been more personal for me. It’s actually a good thing that my birthday is close to the start of a new year, I realised. It makes the whole thing less trivial and mainstream, instead, I spend it in a more empirical manner and in an idiosyncratic style. The days are more intimate and meaningful to my person.

Looking forward to what wonderful things the universe has in store for me.

Here’s to an amazing year ahead!

P.S. Thank you, Su Shwe Yee Htun, for spending the day with me.

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