One of the brilliant pieces written by students from The Monthly Masterclass
I was born on June 30, 1972. “We wanted a tax deduction,” my parents liked to say. Growing up in the sub-tropics with a birthday smack in the middle of Winter sucked. “What do you want to do for your birthday?”, Mum would ask. “Have a beach party”, I’d say with the conviction of a child with no notion that single-digit temperatures aren’t for swimming in. “You can’t have a beach party, it’s Winter”, Mum would reply. So when I discovered that seasons were inverted in the Northern hemisphere I resolved that one day I’d have a birthday in the Summer.
Last year, I got talking about my impending 40th. I couldn’t give a rats about turning 40 and struggle to understand people who see it as the doorway to irrelevance and incontinence pads. But I’ve become increasingly aware of the lack of milestones in my life. I’m disinterested in marriage and parenthood, which means my next likely rite of passage is my funeral. I was also aware that life slips by too easily and it’s important to stop sometimes and mark the moment. So I decided to start creating my own occasions that would serve as treasured memories and opportunities to stand with those I love and say we matter.
My 40th seemed a good place to start. Over dinner I told some friends about my dream to have a Summer birthday and a French friend said Turkey was fantastic. And that was it, my boyfriend decided we were going to Turkey for my birthday. My boyfriend and I have a habit of orchestrating surprises for one another. It began about 5 years ago when I managed to get him to his seat and his hero Bob Dylan to walk on stage before he realised who it was. He cried, I cried, it was magic. So I told him to organise the trip and tell me nothing. I’m normally the over-organiser who reads every guide book, agonises over where to stay, what to do, how to get there. But this time, I simply got on the plane knowing I’d be in Istanbul in 24 hours. And the sum I knew about Istanbul was the lyrics of They Might Be Giants’ Istanbul (Not Constantinople): “Istanbul was Constantinople/ Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople”.
So we arrive and it’s warm. The kind of temperature to bask in. We spend a few days tooling around Istanbul and it’s awesome (just add it to your bucket list and go). Then it’s my birthday. I accidentally burst the balloon of what my boyfriend was organising when it emerged that when I’d said I wanted to going dancing in a Turkish Trance bar, he heard “Trans bar” and had been feverishly searching for transvestite bars in Istanbul. But because it was Istanbul, we did end up in a restaurant with a palace hidden behind a hole in the wall. An actual 15th Century palace the restaurant owner discovered a few years ago while doing some renos.
The next morning, we fly South. We step off the plane into the kind of humid heat that punches you in the throat. I have no idea where we are and it’s perfect. A taxi ride later and getting on a wooden sailing boat to spend 4 days on the Mediterranean Sea on water so clear and blue it’s as though Zeus squeezed the sky.
40 years wasn’t too long to wait for my moment in the sun. Especially with my man the dream-maker.
Follow Rachel on twitter @RachelTaylorAu