Another year older, another year wiser


What a wonderful weekend of surprises! I was well and truly spoilt rotten by my friends, family and boyfriend this weekend as I officially entered my “late” twenties, with my 26th birthday.

As I’ve grown older, expectations for my birthday celebrations are not as high as they once were. This year marked 10 years since my high school prom, so, beginning to feel old, my expectations for birthday celebrations have dropped to a well-written birthday card message and some flowers from my closest friends and family. This year, not only did I get this treatment, but so much more as well.

Being at work on the Friday, the day was no different from any other, except the fact that I’d brought a batch of cookies for my colleagues to celebrate. Of course, everyone wished me a happy birthday throughout the day, and I was very content with this. However, just before I was due to leave, my colleagues surprised me with flowers, some macarons and a gel-manicure set (they know me so well!) and a card signed by everybody. This took me completely off guard; having only worked here for just over 2 months I was not expecting this at all, so it was lovely to receive these gifts and such kind words.

The surprises were due to continue, as my boyfriend had planned to take me out to Guilo Guilo, a fantastic Japanese-French fusion restaurant in the 18th arrondissement. Seated around the kitchen, we had front-row seats to see the renowned chef prepare the set-menu dishes. We were treated to a gorgeous 8 course menu, with well-composed, tasty and sometimes unheard of, exotic ingredients.

After such a delicious treat, I was not expecting the scene when I walked through our apartment door. I was greeted with the surprise of our dining room table topped with flowers, champagne, chocolate cake, a jewellery box containing white gold and topaz earrings as well as a beautiful card and book about hidden Paris spots. My boyfriend had already bought me a handbag for my birthday that I’d helped pick out, so he had really spoilt me (too much in fact!) but it was so lovely seeing the time and effort he’d taken to plan out each part of this evening, truly making me feel like a princess.

On Saturday night, as is my birthday tradition in Paris, my girlfriends and I took a trip to Pasdeloup in the 11th arrondissement, seated as always at the table by the window. The chef has recently changed, so we were sceptical if it would still be up to the same standards, but each plate we tried was equally as delicious as before – in particular their octopus dish served with fettuccini and courgettes was amazing. After another round of being spoilt with gifts from the girls, we finished the evening by meeting the boyfriends at a new cocktail place nearby – Bar Bisou. The concept is something I hadn’t seen before. There are no menus to choose your poison of choice; instead you tell the barmaid how you like your cocktails – for me something rum-based, fresh and fruity – and they will whip up a drink to suit your tastes.

However delightful this weekend was, being truly treated like a princess, it is strange to think back, as I do with each passing birthday, to this time last year. I had been through, and was still going through, a particularly rough year back then – after a year of digestive health issues, losing 10kg in a couple of months and numerous hospital exams and tests, the doctors were still perplexed, and I was feeling pretty down at the prospect of turning 25.

A mere few months later, I started a treatment and my life literally turned around – I felt confident and happy again, taking pleasure in small tasks and enjoying feeling easy enough to go out and see my friends. I met my boyfriend soon after, we moved in together and earlier this year, I found a new job after having been made redundant; my life today could not be more different than a year ago.

So now, when people ask me, as they have done in previous weeks “How do you feel about turning 26? Are you dreading it?” I’ve quite honestly answered that it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I am so much happier and grateful for even the smallest things in life, that I used to take for granted. Although it was lovely to have all of these surprises from my family, friends and boyfriend, it is an even better feeling to be surrounded by the people who got me through these tough times and who I know will continue to be there for me, whatever the future may hold.