“What’s the first thing you want to do on turning eighteen?” asked my mother.
Any other teenager may have said learning to drive, for those who did not start on turning seventeen. Cheekier ones may have joked about going to a pub and taking their first drink.
“Open a fixed deposit account,” I said.
Eighteen years ago today, on the 21st of May 2002, I was born.
Yes, I’m turning eighteen today!
(The nerve! This is my first time putting up a photo in my pyjamas. Hopefully I still look presentable.)
Today is a happy day, even though it’s still CMCO (Conditional Movement Control Order) due to the Covid 19 situation. My mother and I took a quick trip to the mall (masks on, hands off elevator railings, walk ten miles away from everyone, etc) and got us lunch. Then she redeemed two free Tealive drinks, hazelnut milk tea, which she won from joined a mini online contest.
A stall across from Tealive caught my eye, and I bought a little box of cappucino almond biscuits for myself. It had a cyan-coloured ribbon tied around its cover. I was delighted.
“I love almond,” I gushed. “And cappucino. And the colour cyan.” I pointed at the ribbon toed around the biscuit container. “That’s why I’m getting this one.”
It was my first trip out of the house to the mall since MCO for Malaysia begun on the 18th of March, 2020. (However, my contract work as a patient care assistant with the hospital ended only early April. Read all about it here and here!) I eagerly kept my eyes out for the little details that I saw at the mall today, knowing full well that after this short trip on my birthday, the next time I left the house would be who knows when. So it’s like that – temperature taking at many shops, long lines going into departmental stores, recording of names and contact numbers etc. One of the clothing outlets had an especially long line, and I was surprised. Clothes are in demand? At this time?
Then I remembered Hari Raya (the Muslim new year) was coming soon for the Malays. Maybe that’s why!
Still, mom said I hadn’t seen the real thing. “Back during the first few weeks of MCO, the mall was half deserted, all the shops were shut… and there was free parking.”
On returning home, my father called: “Follow SOP! Quarantine everything else except lunch. Lather your handphones with hand sanitizer. Bathe and wash your hair.” We do so.
It was only after that that we were allowed to enjoy our lunch – Nandos! We said again how amused we were by the catchy words on the brown paper bag. See, that’s the difference between us and bags. Humans only live once, bags can have many happy returns. Please recycle this one.
In its next life, this bag wants to be a bag.
We go back to doing our own things. At tea time, it was time to cut the cake. For our family, birthday cakes are always cut and eaten at tea time (around 4pm). This year, my mom bought me a cake of really unique flavour – a delicious lemon earl grey tea cake, ordered online.
Earl grey tea has a really exotic, out of this world taste. Try as I might, some hours after eating the cake, I could not recall its taste. When I tried to think of coffee, the memory of its taste was vivid, even though I hadn’t had coffee for a month. Maybe that’s the way coffee becomes addictive for some people – it has a way of latching on to your brain cells.
“I like things that are different.” I said to my mom. “It’s a breath of fresh air. And I love the experience.”
Now, I am writing this blogpost to share all of this with you, enjoying the final hours of my birthday while it lasts. I would like to thank all the beautiful people – my family, my old classmates from high school, and ex-colleagues from my retail job (first day at work: retail job) and hospital job (first day at work: hospital job) – for all the kind wishes for my 18th birthday, and my future.
I am now a legal adult. But with more freedom also comes more responsibility. It will be tough, even alien, at times – but I am prepared to tackle all these challenges bravely as they come my way!
~Blog author, Rachel Tan HX