The road to 43 was not particularly paved, rather it was rocky, long and winding. Whilst I had some really good times between 42 and 43, I want to be honest and say that this period in my life has been one of the toughest. There was a point where I questioned myself a lot because I felt like I was a failure despite investing too much time and effort in trying to make things work, and making people feel that they were valued. The constant challenge from people at work almost got the better of me. I didn't need to hear that people (potentially)hated my guts because I could clearly see and feel from how they looked at me. Everything that I said was taken out of context. I was reprimanded for addressing something I believed was right. People suddenly stopped coming to me. The negativity in my normally positive self started to brew. Fortunately, I was mindful enough to notice the little changes in myself and therefore, was able to turn things around quickly. I decided to be the bigger person and made peace with those whom I apparently have done wrong. Things are better now that I am more aware of myself and the people around me.
Family, on the other hand, has always been challenging for the last how ever many years. At this point, I believe it is fair to say that I have accepted the fact that things will never become easier and that peace of mind in this aspect of my life will never be achieved. This is not in any way being negative. It is a matter of accepting that life is unfair and that I cannot have everything in life. I guess I was born to fight, hence the constant battles that I have to go through.
Then a few months before my 43rd birthday, I went through something that I thought I will never have to go through. I would rather not discuss this any further as this is very personal to me and rather quite sensitive. Quite traumatising in fact, that I even chose to disclose the situation to only one of my trusted friends and no one else. What matters most now is that I have fought the battle and (hopefully have) won it like a true warrior. Suffice it to say that this difficult situation brought out the best in me, and gave me the affirmation that I am very capable of loving unconditionally.
And so on my birthday month, I did a few things to celebrate me and all the challenging times behind me.
July is always a good time to be Prideful as it's when we celebrate Pride in London. As I have not been able to volunteer in the last year and a half, I am glad that I am still able to give back a little by supporting the LGBT community. This is now my second year in joining the parade and just like last year, I had so much fun. It is always good to see people come together to celebrate love and equality. And as someone who had her first gay friend at a young age of 6, I am very proud to be a part of this movement. Thank you to my little sis Kristy for always bringing me as her plus one. Not only that I was able to join such a good cause for the second time around, but also kicked off my birthday month with a brunch and a much needed catch up with her.
I had a different plan on my birthday in that I was going to see a sunflower field outside London with one of my friends. However, J was asked to attend a conference in Strasbourg and so I cancelled my sunflower trip and went to Strasbourg with J instead.:) The last time I celebrated my birthday abroad was in Sydney in 2016, so I was excited to celebrate my birthday outside the UK this year .
And thanks to J, I had one of the best birthdays ever! Strasbourg is a very magical place and I am so blessed to have spent my 43rd birthday there.
As a tradition, I normally go on a birthday date with myself either the day before or after my birthday. However, I was alone on my birthday this time as J was at the conference all day, so I went on the day instead, then J and I went to dinner afterwards.
To be honest, there are a a lot of good restaurants in Strasbourg and I could have just gone to any of the restaurants in town and I would have been equally contented and happy, but I was curious about one particular restaurant, 1741. When I passed by the restaurant the first time, I thought 1741 was the year the restaurant was opened or the building was built at least. But apparently not. It was actually the year the building opposite was completed- that is the Palais Rohan. Anyway, so I booked a table for 1 and requested for a quiet table and an unforgettable dining experience as it was indeed my birthday- and it was exactly what I got.
I felt a bit awkward walking into the restaurant alone especially when I saw two couples already in the room. The room was intimate, with only 3 tables and 6 chairs. I was given the middle table which was the best table for me. I didn't interact with the other diners for a while, until I realised that I was in a strange place and really should make an effort to reach out to locals. Besides, the lunch was going to be 3 hours long and I really didn't want to spend my time not eating, on my mobile phone. So, I initiated a conversation with the younger lady on my left and asked her if she was from Strasbourg, and if they have been to the restaurant before. She answered "oui" to my first question, but I didn't get the rest of the words she said afterwards. It was quite difficult to make conversation with them because they only spoke French and my French is limited to only a few words. We eventually asked help from google translate so we could understand each other. :)
The older couple in the room were celebrating their anniversary on the day. I didn't have much conversation with them during lunch, but we exchanged lots of smiles. When my dessert came and they saw a candle, the old lady asked the sommelier to ask me if I wanted to try a glass of Marc d'Alsace Gewurztraminer. I reluctantly said yes as to not spoil the celebration. After lunch, I approached the couple to say thank you and asked if I could have a photo with them to which they both happily obliged. The lady gave me their address afterwards and told me to learn French from then on. They invited me to their house, but unfortunately they were only free on Saturday - the day we were going back to London. So, the day after my birthday, I sent them a thank you card instead. A few days later, I received an email from them thanking me for my kindness.
This dining experience at Restaurant 1741 is one of the most unforgettable dining experiences I ever had, not only because of the food and the service, but more so with the strangers I spent my birthday lunch with. Marlene and Emile- the older couple in the restaurant, definitely made my birthday extra special.
Now, there are only two Filipino performers that I would love to watch in a concert - Lea Salonga and Sarah Geronimo. I didn't get to see Lea in Miss Saigon as she was finishing when I came to the UK, so I was hoping I could watch at least one of her concerts. This dream came true 10 days after my birthday.
Lea sang at least five of my life's soundtrack with so much clarity and emotion that I felt empowered all over again. One of my favourite songs, "Go the Distance" (from Hercules) almost brought me to tears. The song reminded me of how far I have become from being "just" a farmer's daughter to a woman with the ability to inspire and motivate others.
Thank you, Lea for an unforgettable night.
And thank you to my Ate Elvie for coming with me. I couldn't think of any better way to cap off my birthday month.
Despite all the hard times I had to endure in the last year, I remain blessed and grateful- for there is always a good reason to look forward to another year. For me, it's another chance to enjoy life and wait for the time when the universe finally decides to make up for all the challenges he has been throwing at me for years. Peace.