Although I believe time is a delusion and the soul has no age, the physical body is aging as the calendar flips another page. There’s something uniquely special about turning 44. Maybe it’s because it transforms into an 8 when combined.

Embracing 44 is an opportunity to celebrate the wisdom gained, the growth experienced, and the promise of new infinite beginnings that come with the number eight.

Growing up, we all have been somewhat conditioned by the culture and traditions we were raised with. There is a song in Russian called “Birthday is a sad holiday” that I could never relate to. December 28th has always been a special day for me. Back home, all Winter Holidays started with celebrating my birthday. Russian (Orthodox) Christmas is celebrated on January 7th. So, we begin the festivities on December 28th, then merge into a New Year and then into two weeks of Holidays, including January 7th. So, my birthday was sort of a “warm-up” for the next two weeks of heavy eating, drinking and partying. Never a sad holiday like the song promised….until I moved to Canada.

Moving from Russia with two suitcases and my freshly printed diploma from the most prestigious Law University, I made Canada my home. I quickly learnt that my ability to write and read in English was much stronger than my English comprehension. This reminds me of the dinner party where we ended up watching a movie with subtitles (per my request), and one of my English friends said: “Who is deaf in the room? Why do we need subtitles?” No, Jennifer, I wasn’t deaf. I just couldn’t understand the American language with the Canadian twist in a British movie.

I can only imagine how many people who made Canada their home had to blend in with local culture, traditions, and language just to gain some sort of stability and confidence. I once even tried to wear GAP PJ pants to a local grocery store on Sunday. 

As the years went by, I found myself lost somewhere in the middle, leaving my roots and authenticity behind but not really finding anything else that felt like mine. They say the void has to be searched within, and oh boy, I did.

Rule number one: blend in with the crowd; perhaps you can hide your accent.

I remember my 25th birthday party, my first milestone birthday since I moved here. If you have ever tried to book a large table during the Holiday season, you probably know that it is not only challenging but also impossible. So, with very little choice left, we settled on a small local restaurant in White Rock, only a few minutes walk from my home. Invitations were sent out to all people that I called my friends. The big day was here, and I kept playing in my mind how this is all going to play out. I had no idea that I could graduate nursing school in one evening. I learned new words for my daily vocabulary and the entire medical book in English! I learnt about the procedures of knee surgery and hip replacements, what Alzheimer’s is, and when it’s the best time to start checking the prostate (although I do not have one), but the most important part was “Where to shop for affordable and good quality dentures in White Rock.” I was grateful to all my 70+ years old neighbours who showed up to celebrate with me.

See, in Canada, by the time December 28th comes; everyone is either overate, overdrunk, overpartyed, overshopped or sipping Margaritas in Mexico. Well, at least that seemed to be the excuse of all my friends who didn’t show up.

Rule number two: Don’t forget to add RSVP to invitations (if you are lucky enough to know what it stands for as a newcomer).

I remember coming home that night around 8 p.m. and having a hard time understanding how December 28th here and December 28th back home could be as different as the moon and the sun. Year after year, to avoid the pain and disappointment of not being able to celebrate my birthday with “my people,” I found the solution that worked for me. If I go on vacation during my birthday, I don’t have to deal with the sadness that comes with another person being unable to make it to my birthday.

Caught into the routine and what I call now “years of running away from my own feelings,” I have celebrated my birthday with strangers in Hawaii, resort staff in Costa Rica, and locals on the beach of St. Lucia island. Watching dolphins in Santa Barbara water, having a nice Italian meal in the Italian district of San Francisco, checking out some clubs in Seattle, and even getting a birthday song from a hot-looking West Jet pilot and the flight attendees crew, I finally was able to find how to fulfill the void. That void that came with leaving my family and my friends back home.

This year was no different. Running in circles of old patterns, a two-day trip was booked to avoid the pain and disappointment. And then something hit me. It was when my IT person, Vicky, asked me to start the blog for Sea2Sky. My creative side thought it would be a good idea to start a blog on my birthday and show up once in a while as the face of the company. I began brainstorming what I could write about for my upcoming 44th birthday, and I was stuck. I knew the only way to write about my birthday was to be open and bold. And I struggled. They say Queens don’t cry. Like many of us, I am still learning that vulnerability is the strength. 

That “authenticity” is the highest form of vibration. I have been given another chance to rise above the pain and instead of running away from it, learn how to sit with it until you become friends with it.

I have created an amazing circle of beautiful people around me. People who genuinely inspire, laugh, and cry with me. My parents are here now, and my kids are with me. Why do I still run away and use the old behavioural patterns that no longer serve me? I realized that these old days when I felt so small by immigrating to Canada, with no valued degree, full of fears and insecurities, and no friends or family standing by my side, are long gone. It is time to ask myself why I still do what no longer serves me.

I stopped by my parents’ place tonight to check on them. My dad was trying on new pants. I joked with him, asking him if he got a date without Mom knowing, and he replied, “Yes, with my daughter on her birthday.”

Rule number three: People who love you will always show up on your birthday. And this is how you know they are your people.

At 44, life has woven a tapestry of experiences, both triumphs and challenges. Each chapter has contributed to the person I am today. Reflecting on the lessons I learned, the resilience I gained, and the wisdom of navigating the intricacies of turning 44 is not just about the number; it’s a celebration of the rich tapestry of the life I’ve woven. It’s an age that beckons me to appreciate the journey, embrace change, and rediscover the dreams that make my heart sing. Standing at this juncture, I know the best is yet to come. I embrace the wisdom, welcome the transformations, and savour the joy of new beginnings. Here’s to a life of beautifully lived and exciting adventures that lie ahead at 44 and beyond!

PS. The two-day trip was cancelled.

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