A few days ago (December 30th, to be exact, for those of you who are keeping track), I turned 35 years old. It doesn't feel that weird. I think 30 was a much bigger milestone for me---the big THREE-O. But 35 feels like a stop in the road of life, and a brief one at that. Yes, I have a few more lines around my eyes and my skin is thinner than it used to be. Yes, I need to lose a few pounds if I want to continue fitting into some of my clothes. Yes, I feel older and wiser, and those two things are inextricably linked, I've come to see. I'm definitely not the same person I was five or ten years ago, but I am also not completely different.
I'm having two birthday parties--in grand Capricorn fashion--for my 35th birthday celebration, not including a small, intimate party I had on my actual birthday with a few friends. (If you want the details about the party--although you've probably already been bombarded by my Evites--email me privately, I'm not about to post that info on my blog!) A friend encouraged me to have a big party for my 35th, saying that we often never celebrated ourselves unless we were getting married or were dead. Birthdays, to me, have always been an important time, a time when we reflect for a moment on where we are in life, where we'd like to be. A time when we bring friends together to feel that they love us and to celebrate life with them. And a time when we may even ask for a little something for ourselves.
The 'little something' for me this year is a trip to visit my father for the first time, as well as a first-ever trip to the Philippines. So if the coming and going of my 35th birthday seemed somewhat normal and uneventful, just another notch on the birthday belt (although if you talk to me after the big party I will probably say something different), these trips I'm sure will be huge life-changing experiences for me.
I've never known my father, and like so many people whose fathers were absent from their lives growing up, I have a mass of conflicting emotions about finally meeting him and possibly building a relationship with him. Firstly, i have a lot of anger, anger that has been sometimes aimed at other people, but really belongs to him. He left my mother and I before we were born, never gave us a dime or sent me so much as a birthday card. My mom was forced to raise me on her own, with the help of friends and family. And while I never regret that that was my path in life, I know that not having a father has caused me a lot of pain and grief. It has also taught me a lot of good things, and I am grateful to my mother for her role in raising me despite the obstacles that his leaving posed for her.
But secondly, I have a lot of hope and excitement, as well as fear. How is my father going to respond to me? What the hell am I going to say to him? Will I just yell at him and leave? I hope not. Will I ever want to see him again?
I also have two half-sisters that I have never met, my father's children with another woman. He wrote me a letter (when I was already an adultl; no doubt his mid-life crisis forced him to deal with me to assuage his guilty conscience) saying that they really wanted to get to know me. It's strange to think that somewhere out there are two women who may look like me, talk like me, who are blood-related to me but whose names and faces I do not know.
So the first trip I will be taking is to find and meet my father and sisters (yes, I've seen Antwone Fisher; I'm trying not to get my hopes up, though, that my father's family will be as welcoming or loving). And then in April 2007 (most likely) I will be taking my first-ever trip to the Philippines, where my maternal grandmother and aunt and many cousins still live. I've been estranged from my blood-family for many years now; my mother's one big flaw was a marriage to an abusive step-father that resulted in me being pushed out of my extended blood-family. But in recent years I've been trying to establish more ties with my family from the Philippines. It's an important trip for me, as the trip to see my father is, and I know that I can't move forward with the next phase of my life--planning for and starting my own family--without making these journeys and coming to peace with the families that I have had so many mixed emotions about.
And to connect this all back with my birthday, I will be asking my extended family of friends, comrades and colleagues who come to my birthday festivities to contribute to my travel fund. Working for nonprofits for the last eleven years has not helped me build a huge cash-reserve, and I'm hoping that all the fundraising I've done for others has bought me enough good karma to raise a couple thousand dollars. It's the best birthday gift I could ever get.
And lastly, I feel optimistic about my birthday fundraising efforts in part because, starting in February, we will be in the year of the Golden Pig (Chinese calendar). This means that 2007 will be a good year for saving and making money, and that babies born in this year will be rich (or that's what's supposed to happen anyway). And those of us (like me) fortunate enough to be born pigs should have especially good years. I've even asked my co-workers (who are mostly Latino) to start calling me 'Cochinita Dorada' (the little golden pig) to get the good luck flowing early.
So wish me luck and fortune in this year of the Golden Pig, and I do the same to you. Happy new year!