I am 34

I love birthdays. I really do. It used to be the presents. Then the thrill of a disposable income. Some years the wishes. But by and by, it’s just the concept. I love it.

I love squeezing as much as I can from the day. I like to wake early and have a small chat with myself. Preferably over something to eat (croissants from Oven Fresh yesterday for lunch. Define ‘Early’). Birthdays are mile-markers and I like the team to think about what we’d like to do with the rest of our time here.

Heart, is there some stuff you want to let go of? What’s filling you up? Stomach, rethink your lust. Spirit, stay awake. Intuition, thank you; we’ll put it on the memo to trust you more. Fear, we’ve got to boss you down. Lungs, we must be kinder to you and rely on you to slow us down in stress. I like to think of all the great stuff that happened and bully myself to stay on the path. Mostly, I like to take deep breaths and say, “It’s my birthday!” Feb 14 is, “It’s not my birthday anymore.”

34 is farther than I imagined. I didn’t have plans beyond 20 (Turn of the century! I’ll have a boyfriend!). 34 is no landmark year. 34 does not have a ring to it. 34 is neither here nor there. 34 is too many candles on the cake. 34 is just the year before 35.

But I am 34. Isn’t that fantastic?

Checking in

It’s been going well, I wanted to tell you. Freelancing is a ride. Since I changed gears in October 2012, I have travelled to Thailand twice, Cambodia, Laos, Lucknow, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Velas, Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Kashmir, Bangalore, Mahabaleshwar, Goa, Delhi and Jamshedpur. I just got back from New Zealand. I am writing from Pune.

The reason why I celebrate even a trip to Mahableshwar and Velas is because they felt eventful. I didn’t have this for a long time and I am grateful for every bus ride out of the city.

I feel most supported in this endeavour. Friends put me up in their homes, give me keys to their satellite homes, editors recommend me to competing publications, colleagues push assignments, PR people take a chance on me, work flows in thick and fast. It’s as if everyone wants me to succeed but me.

When I get an especially juicy assignment, I feel like I don’t deserve it. Because, doesn’t everyone want to be a travel writer? What makes me more deserving than them? Surely something is wrong. Someone is going to realise that and fix it.

Another side effect is that I am extremely chatty. Deprived of colleagues, I make small talk with strangers. God help you if you sit near me in a restaurant I love. I will commend you for choosing nachos for breakfast. If you ask me about my order, I will insist you taste it. If you ask for a recommendation, I will explain the chef’s culinary ethos to you. Run. Come back later.

It’s all still scary and chaotic. When asked what my beat is, I have to think. Mainly, I follow my curiosity. I don’t know where my career is going and I still question this move every day (three times, after meals). I only have an intuition that a future is approaching. I do not know its shape, but I sense it will be deeply familiar and made in my image.