East Meets West: Another Spin Around The Sun

I have a bit of a complicated relationship with my birthday. When I was a kid, my parents would appease me and have all the Christmas decorations up, even the tree, so (not so) bratty bitty Steens could put her presents under it. My parent's places does look wonderful all dressed in its twinkly Christmas finery. There are worse demands. 

When I shifted into my teens and early twenties, I believed that people had to have Miss Cleo clairvoyant skills to realize that I wanted a big brouhaha to wish me many happy returns. I wasn’t asking for a skywriter or Tom Hardy with a charcuterie board but celebrations.

Age brought me some wisdom, and fancying myself an intuitive cookie, I threw my own damn birthday ruckus because you have to listen to what you want and need. And that’s why, ladies and gentleman, in my mid-20wenties, my first and only birthday in St. John’s, I threw a costume party and everyone had to dress up as an 80’s  or 90’s cartoon character.

I was Carmen San Diego. There were three costumes changes, I was decorated with glow sticks and feathers and twinkle lights,  and as it happened, only males showed up for the party to joyously guzzle suds, nosh my hot appies (not a euphemism, but made me laugh),  pump up the jams and adore me. I regret nothing. I asked for what I wanted and got it.  

What did I want next? I’ve never travelled on my own. I’ve done what I’ve needed to do but I’ve never pre-planned and gotten excited and hopped a jet plane just for me.

I figured my thirtieth birthday would be the perfect opportunity to tick that box. Thirty. How is it possible that (save for a bum hip) I feel younger and look younger than I did in my early twenties? Attention must be paid and applauded! How? Aloha, baby.  I still can’t wrap my noodle around it. Going to Hawaii was so out of my realm of reality the equivalent would be to say, “So yeah, I fly to Narnia on Thursday”.  

The land of the Pineapples was good to me. I don’t even care that it POURED 48 hours straight. My first night there, I slept 12 hours straight and it suited me just fine. I still went to the beach and the sound of the rain hitting the sand sizzled.


The clouds cleared I rented a car and drove up the North shore, perching myself on white sandy beaches and rainbows aplenty while watching the International Surfing Championship taking place. I ate all the garlic shrimp. I went to the Valley of the Dead, a misty green gorge of a cemetery. Dozens of feral cats pranced and preened among the tombstones and circled around me when they weren’t stalking the black swans, as I took in the Temple of Equality which was a  replica of a 900-year-old Japanese Temple. I rang the brass bell to cleanse myself. I took off my sandals, entered the temple and bowed to the 18 foot Buddha, while we took turns whispering to each other. This is how you enter a new decade. 


How does one keep that momentum going? With more palm trees of course. For my thirty-first birthday I took myself to Tinsel Town; Hurray for Hollywood! I’m one of those starry-eyed dreamers who yearns for the silver screen (Spoiler alert, that’s why I move across the damn country). I wanted a taste of that glittering world, the Old Hollywood which enchants me so.

As luck would have it, I have a connection to someone who works at Paramount Studios. I was treated to lunch in the executive dining room (and could barely carry off a conversation because I was gobsmacked as to where I was) and a private tour of the lot.

I walked “the streets of New York” where The Godfather and Breakfast at Tiffany’s was filmed, and posed alongside Katharine Hepburn’s office. I allowed myself to be infused with glitter. And I must have been shiny; that night when I went for a cocktail I nearly crashed the LaLa Land after party…


I strolled Venice Beach with its people, music, and wares. I drove to Joshua tree, trying to catch the trees dancing before they noticed I was looking. I affirmed that the feelings I felt toward California weren’t for naught; a city that I feared would be deeply exclusive of me for not being “the ideal”. It welcomed me with open arms, and teased me to come back. 

And this year? I’m still grappling with my place in the world, a world that makes me feel hopeful and hopeless concurrently. I’m a not-so-young but still young-ish woman. I don’t have kids. Nor do I have (many) financial obligations. Yes, I’m still rotted that I’m not going to be on a beach this year (AGAIN) blowing out my candles.

Boo-fucking-hoo Steens. You went to Nicaragua and Bali this year! Not to mention festivals and concerts, weekend trips and found a home. It’s ok. You still did good. Real good. I survived my twenties. I didn’t join the 27 Club (not that I wanted to be part of it) like Kurt Cobain or Janis Joplin (is it only for musicians? Bingo! There’s the reason; not a musician).

I’m excited about the person I am and the person I’m becoming. I’ve excavated and questioned, expelled and healed aspects of myself that have been decade-old wounds. Through it all, I’ve never lost hope, nor given up on my dreams. So with with a quiet, internal wink to myself, I know I’m getting closer.