Being 21 (part 1)

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When I turned 21 this year, I really didn’t do much. I just had a mini ‘thing’ with my six housemates, four other friends and good cake. It was a really good party. We were all warmed in the winter from all the wine, laughs, and pizzas, and really that was how my birthday passed.

Before June the 16th came, I did contemplate a big bash though, because like everyone else, I knew that its not everyday one turns 21. I wanted fairy-lights, a great big tent, good beers, and the perfect Malaysian weather. I dreamt of all the people in my life that I adore, being there, but in order for that to happen, I had to be home in KL. By the time I actually reached Malaysian soil, the mood for throwing my party was gone, so I didn’t have it in the end.

The gang surprised me with cupcakes and birthday songs via skype. Plus we kept the tradition alive with passing the crown on to the next birthday girl.


Even though I did very ‘little’ this year in terms of celebrating it goes, there is a message I wanted to tell the world, and It was that- I was happy. I really didn’t need the whole elaborate affair to feel special, like my life was celebrated, or that people loved me, because I was already full from all of it.

It really didn’t matter if I had gifts, or if anyone did anything for me, and that was the honest truth. Everyday of my life this year was already a literal- celebration.

Of course I had bad days amongst the good ones. There were days that I did nothing at all, or days where I pounded my fists and wrestled the blankets to oblivion, but when I looked back at it, I hardly remembered those days at all.

The only days I remembered were ones of dreams unfolding. Here I was actually doing something with my life- I was being educated overseas, interning, writing articles, learning important life lessons and meeting different people. My friends continually love me, and my family and I are closer than ever. Even though I seemed to be ranking nowhere on the world’s ‘success’ scale, I mean, I wasn’t a journalist for Al Jazeera or anything. I felt well on my way.

How could I not be grateful for all of that?

When my birthday came around, I got a birthday message from a friend that went something like this,

“Ah! Jowee Tee! One of the most awesomest people (yes the word doesn’t exist) in the world Happy Birthday!! A wall post wouldn’t suffice!! Your birthday is so special that here in South Africa, it’s a public holliday! And there was a lunar eclipse!! The Holiday is in memory of when the Black youth of S.A took the revolution into their own hands!

And You Ms Tee are such a revolutionary, moving to the beat of your own drum, and blessing all those who encounter you with your warmth, smile, kindness. Just being around you makes me want to be better! And seeing the things you accomplish gives hope to us who, in the words of Paulo Coelho: are in seek of our personal legend!

So Jowee Happy 21st! May God continue to bless you, may you remain to be a blessing, and in this new cycle may you continue grow in all spheres of your life, may the Lord keep you, and bless you and make His face shine upon you!”

– Chris Djuma

For me, this message serves two very constant reminders. One, that I am loved halfway around the world, even to the reaches of South Africa!  And two, and perhaps the more important of the two- its that my birthday is not my own, and that every day things are happening all around the world. I am not the queen of the day. Time doesn’t stop for me, or anyone. The world continues to turn whether or not I will it to. While one day celebrates birth, it also celebrates stories of revolutions, people fighting everyday for freedom, lunar eclipses, and the other important things yet to make it in the pages of history.

Its an incredibly humbling effect, so thank you Chris.

So, its not everyday one turns 21, but its also not everyday one turns 22, 23, 24 or any other number after that. I want to remember that every year makes the cut for something special, great, and meaningful, not just 21.

World Changer Tee

World Changer Tee from Ea



  1. Dear Jowee,

    This post is brilliant, well-thought out, insightful, and a good reminder to me as well. I had similar realizations when I turned 21 too, and it’s nice to be reminded of them once again, and to know there are other people who share a similar journey of growing up and learning about life and what it means to live. 🙂 P/S – Happy belated birthday. 🙂

    1. Ah Crystal!
      How have you been? Funny I actually was out with Jeremy today and we were talking bout all things- you included about how you’re back and stuff.

      Thank you for that, I also realize we’re often at similar points in life aren’t we?
      Hope to hear from you soon. 🙂

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