For the last few years, I have written birthday blog posts filling out the same set of questions each time, so I can look back each year and feel what it was to be me in that moment. A time capsule, of sorts. Here’s the last 365.25 days:

hi from the highlands

What are you doing exactly right now?I just got home from about 24 hours of travel from a two week trip to London and Scotland. I dropped off laundry, came home, made a breakfast burrito for dinner, opened some wine, and am trying to stay awake as long as I can to get myself back on HK time!

What shoes and clothes are you wearing? My “The Future is Female Sweatshirt” and some boxer shorts. I turned on the AC so I could wear a sweatshirt and light a candle. Oh and a stain from tea and collagen eyepads. #basic.

What did you last eat?  Soooo sometimes when I feel sorry for myself, I go to this American store that smuggles in goods from Trader Joes and Costco and stuff and sells them. A few weeks ago, I did just that, and got some expired cartons of those hashbrowns you take camping, where you fill the little milk carton with water for a bit, then drain it, then fry up some goodness. I put that and some eggs in a tortilla and smothered it with salsa verde, which is all I really wanted after two weeks of bland UK food. Oh and then an entire carton of Haagen Daz.

Where are you living? Still in Hong Kong, and just signed a contract for another two years, which I still waver back and forth on. Two years is a long commitment to make to a place I don’t necessarily love. I *do* love my friends, and having a proper income, and being able to travel. Maybe this is a “work to live” kind of period in my life.

had my first family visitor! Aunt Martha and me on the roof of my school

Where do you work? Same school as last year, this year has been . . . well, lets just not! At the moment, I’ve been pulled to teach first grade while someone is on maternity leave. I love getting to be with kids more, to feel more useful and needed.

Where have you traveled this last year?Back home to California for summer, Virginia to visit Dad, South Korea in October, Thailand for Leslie’s wedding, Vietnam, Cambodia at Christmas, Borneo for Chinese New Year, England to meet mom, Scotland for a solo trip!

When did you last cry?On the plane, three times – 1. Watching “A Star is Born” 2. Watching “Bohemian Rhapsody” – both were incredible movies. My goodness. and then 3. when the turbulence got so bad I had a brief moment of thinking this was how I died, until I convinced myself otherwise.

What was the last movie you watched? Bohemian Rhapsody was so good. So good. I wanted more. Singing along on planes is frowned upon, though, just FYI.

Favorite TV show of the moment? Roomie and I have been rewatching “The Office” since we finished our series rewatch of Parks and Rec. That’s all the tv I’m doing at the moment. I wish I had more time for it! I just finished “Luther,” which was epic. Kept me on that treadmill. But that’s it.

Favorite toy/present of the moment? I upgraded my phone as my bday present to myself. The picture quality is amazing.

What book are you reading? The Hours

How many books did you read in the last year?  Highlights? I read 21, not including some rereads I did, because it comforts me sometimes. Highlights would include Educated, Hillbilly Elegy, Where the Crawdads Sing, and rereading all the Jane Austen books.

Me staring into 35 like

When did you last laugh really hard? Mom and I were in Bath on our little tour through England, and I am and have always been super obsessed with Jane Austen. she lived there for a few years, and a lot of two of her novels take place there, particularly in the Pump Rooms, where everywho (a combination my brain just made of “everyone who is anyone”) would gather for tea. So we made reservations there for a nice champagne tea. We got nice and dressed up, but no one else seemed to understand how IMPORTANT it was to be in the room. Anyway. The quartet started playing “Happy Birthday,” and I looked up, and our server was coming over with a cupcake on fire. With a candle. I blushed, which I don’t do, but was happy and then waved to the band and then asked Mom to get just *one* good photo of the moment, which was magical. You can see what she came up with here.

What are you most looking forward to right now? I’m throwing a birthday party for myself for my friends on Saturday, and I’m so excited for their surprise! It’s an “R” party, so everyone has to come dressed as something that starts with the letter R, and then I have an activity planned. I love activities. It’s going to be R-rated! Lol jk we are teachers everyone will be gone by 9pm.

What’s your favorite song at the moment? Still “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac on repeat most days, but also “Strong” by Christian Paul, and randomly “Maybe This Time” from Cabaret and some Norah Jones has been popping through my playlist and my mind.

a wee bday brunch with besties at potatohead
Mr. Potatohead was not available for photo but sends his regards.

What’s the same about your life last year that you’re happy about? This is tough. The last year has brought about some pretty dramatic changes and challenges. But I’m happy my besties and I still have never-ending text message threads. I’m happy I fit in the same clothes. I’m happy to keep sharing this flat with Suz, who is amazing. I’m privileged to have a lifestyle that allows me to travel as much as I do. I still work hard play hard laugh hard love hard.

What’s different about your life from last year? What surprised you about this last year or changed it for you? I started taking even less shite. With strangers, family, with dating, in friendships, in the normal day-to-day. I had a lot of encounters where I realized that by “trying to be nice,” I was suffocating what I wanted or what I stood for or what was right. I want to be kind, and I want to be honest. To myself and to others. That has meant a lot of tears and adjusting a lot of expectations; learning when it will matter to say something or not. If I know it will still hurt in a few days if I don’t say something, then I do. But if I can get over it, let’s do it quickly and make it a good story for later. I’ve been trying to be more conscious of that this year – having hard conversations if necessary, going to counseling, trying to dig deep and heal and know and love myself better so I can know and love others better.

mum’s too cool for my selfie.
“for the content, ma!”

When and what was your last vacation? Had the greatest two weeks in the UK – my mom was able to come out for a few days, and showing her London for the first time was so much fun. We spent a week between London, Bath, and Oxford before she had to go. Then I went to Scotland for the week – Edinburgh and the Highlands. It took everything in me to get on a plane and return to Hong Kong. Made me realise a lot of things. For starters – Scottish men are . . . dreamy. And my destiny. Secondly, I thought I was afraid of cows, but I love them. Third, I can only go ten days without salsa. Fourth, if people don’t know how old you actually are, you are only as old as you act and sometimes in Scotland I was 55 and asleep on the bus and sometimes I was 12 and looking for faeries in the rivers.

What are you proud of this year? PAYING OFF ALL MY CREDIT CARD DEBT!!!!! Working in Hong Kong has been miserable at times, but it’s worth it to know that my debt is paid, the years in Brazil are erased, and savings can start. College debt will be paid, soon, and I can travel freely (freer!) knowing I’m not adding to.

What’s your current favorite joke? It’s from Easter – What do you get when you pour boiling water down a rabbit hole??

Hot cross bunnies.

looking forward to packing the entire house in order to camp for three nights with this weirdo

What would you like as a gift right now? It’s funny – my request last year was for someone to figure out my taxes for me, which are complicated as I’ve lived abroad for five years now. And I just figured them out this afternoon! Yay! Um right now . . . I guess just for time to go faster so I can get home to see my family. I’m ready for this professional year to be over and to rest in knowing a new one is coming.

one card reads “Mrs. Weight – your the most funniest teacher in the school i think. your so nise.”

What’s an important relationship at the moment? I might say with my class. At the highest in my career, I was seeing up to 100 students a day, so to just be with one group of 22 complete rascals is a kind of magic. I love the absolutely silly things they say, and that the girls come in and tell me I look like a magic princess. There is a kind of magic to teaching kids so young – how to use a ruler, how to tell time, and the tooth fairy is still very real, teaching kids to sell body parts for money. We have our inside jokes and our routines, our songs. I know all their quirks and they have finally realized I’m probably joking 99% of the time. They remember everything I say (and it often comes back to haunt me), and I remember when they say things like “you look like a princess” and “my grandma has a dog named Nugget and I know you like chicken nuggets so I thought I would tell you” and “my tooth is quite wobbly so I can’t concentrate and take this math quiz.” There’s one who always has a mysterious ailment right before Chinese class. There’s one who starts yelling “I didn’t do anything!” whenever one of her tablemates start walking towards me. There’s one who someone falls out of his chair and spills lunch everywhere One has started some kind of underground blackmarket ring in homemade slime trade. They drive me bonkers, their hands are always in their pants or their noses or touching each other, I worry about them constantly. And I love them very, very much.

having a tHairyffic time

What are your goals for the next year? To be able to bake chicken without texting my mom or looking up directions. To finish this book I’ve been trying to write for ages. To send more letters. To hold on to only things and people that spark joy and make me a better person (yoga pants, plane tickets, my besties). More animal selfies.

Here’s to another trip around the sun and living the dream! Adventure is out there. Here’s the last year of it: