OMG I have friends! Friends who would throw a surprise birthday party for me! I could write a thousand words and it wouldn't even begin to describe how happy I am to have these people in my life. Oh my goodness. 

I thought I was just gonna have dinner with a small group of friends. Just eight of us. I didn't invite too many people, because I didn't want to put them in a situation where they would potentially have to reject an invitation. That would just be uncomfortable. And I'm uncomfortable enough already, trying so hard to not tell everyone that my birthday is coming up, so let's just not get other people involved. 

But then Selam told me if I could change it to lunch, because she "can't do dinner." So I thought, "so lunch it is then." I mean, what's the point of even having a meal on my birthday if my favourite people aren't there? And Anastasia said she could make it to lunch too, so all my favourite people definitely would be there!

These people surprise me. They surprise me in the way they're so happy and unapologetic about being themselves. It's just so liberating and it just makes me happy too. Like, I'm always telling Reena about all the ways she surprises me with her different stories. And Guillaume tells me the wildest stories that I would never expect. And Nkechi who's just so full of fun, it amazes me blind.  It's really cool because it makes me feel comfortable to be who I want to be. And that's a good feeling, I think.

Then friday night, when we were out at the afterwork party that Reena organizes, I didn't say a word about my birthday to anyone who didn't already know it was coming up. 

You don't even need that many words. Friday. Party Fun. 
But there were people who knew anyway, and they asked me if I had any plans. I didn't really know what to say, so I just wanted to say something like, "Oh, I'll just sit at home and reflect on my life". But I'm sure I just went with something simpler like "lunch." But I tried not to give away too much because I didn't want it to become a thing, and then I end up inviting too many people and I'd impose on the people I'd already committed to. Also, logistics. No way more than 8 people could agree to one restaurant where they were going to pay to eat. If it was free yeah sure, pick any place you want. 

But I'm going off topic here. Anyway, during the week leading up to my birthday, I was telling anyone who knew about it that I wasn't going to do anything special. That I was just going to keep it really chill. I was just trying to do some expectation management. Try my best to not get people expecting anything extraordinary from me. 

But mainly I think I was managing my own expectations. I mean, come on, birthday in December? The week before Christmas? Your own fault for being born in the busiest holiday period of the year. Go ahead and plan a birthday. Nobody will show up. They'll all be in Spain or something. 

To some close friends, I did let them know that I was secretly excited that my birthday was coming up. I'm not even sure what I was excited about. There was literally NOTHING planned. I felt so silly, but I had to let some people know. But Reena was definitely NOT one of those people. I did not let her know at ALL that I had even the slightest desire to have a party. She could NOT find out that I was in any way excited about my birthday. She would totally make a big deal out of it. 

So I made sure to play it extra cool with her. Like when she brought up my birthday "Oh hey, so what are you doing for your birthday? You gotta do something". I wanted to just be like, "hey, remember that one time I told  you about that donkey that was standing right outside my office building?" I had the photo all ready in my phone and the whole speech memorized to distract her.

But again, I went with something simpler. I just said very unexcitedly that I wasn't planning to do anything. That I just wanted to spend time with some friends, and that's it. I also told her that I don't mind hosting parties, but I definitely did not need the pressure of hosting my own birthday party. Like wow, that's hard. I was just being honest and talking. leaking away my excitement. But I noticed it and switched the topic of conversation to something clever like donkeys or something.

So fast forward to yesterday, or, as I recall it, the best birthday ever, and I woke up feeling great! I was so happy that I didn't have a care in the world that day. I'd already cooked today's meals yesterday and I'd done all most of the things I wanted to do. And the best part of it was, I was going to have lunch with Reena, Ola, Selam, Nkechi, Guillaume, Anastasia, Tom and Anton at Pasta Basta! 

We had great service. I really liked the waiter and how patient he was. I guess that's a quality you need when there's "wait" in your job title. He exchanged Guillaume's burnt meat for a new non-burnt one, which is expected of course, but he did it so courteously. "Oh, it's burnt? Well, we shall get you a new one!" How did the chef not notice that burn though. It was completely charred on one side. 

Really, how did that go unnoticed?

Well, we had a lovely 2-hour lunch where we all behaved like proper adults, then we went to Girofle & Cannelle, a spice shop that Pierre works at. He spent some time with us and gave us tastes of the different things.After purchasing a few pineapple and mango infused beverages, we all left to go home. 

I was already having a great time! I was already ready to call it a day. In my mind, it was like "this is beautiful and magical. Let's not spoil it now by trying anything". But Reena had already told me that she wants to bring me out for drinks that night, and that she'd already picked a place and everything. I asked her if it was okay to ask Selam and Nkay to come, and she said okay, but only after 10 pm, because she wanted to spend time with just me from 8.30 to 10. 

That made me really nervous. Like, what if I'm not interesting? What if I'm not entertaining? But it was a birthday gift, so I had to accept. Happily, of course, despite the nervousness. We've been friends for over a year now, but some people are just so awesome, you kinda feel like you gotta be amazing too if you're gonna be hanging out with them. And this was gonna be a whole one and a half hours with Reena. But I'd do my best.  

So I wasn't done for the day. I got home, spent some time chatting with my housemate, and then I got ready to head out with Reena. I really didn't know what to expect, and wasn't sure I could guarantee a good time. I didn't even know if I felt like going out, really. but I was gonna make an effort. I gave myself a pep talk. "Come on Hakim! Reena wants to spend time with you. She's not even letting anyone else join us. She obviously wants you to have fun, so you go and have fun! No matter how socially unprepared you feel. Just do it. Someone great offers to spend time with you, you can't just pass that up or half-ass it." 

And so I got ready, and texted Reena to tell her that I'm excited, to show I appreciated that she was making the effort to take me out and spend time with me. 8.30 pm she said, so I was ready by 8 pm. I wasn't about to be late. One and a half hours isn't really a long time, so I didn't want to miss a second. 

Reena texted me asking if we could meet up at 8.45 instead because she wasn't feeling so great, and she wasn't ready yet. I thought, "Oh, poor Reena, she must be so tired. But she's still going out with me. What a great girl!" I gotta make sure I look nice tonight, and I know I'll feel really nice if I wear my brand new jacket with the blue fur. So I texted Selam to ask if I could go over to their place and get it. But she wasn't home. I texted Nkay, but she wasn't home too. So I settled for my grey jacket. But I didn't mind, coz Nkay texted me to rock it. 

Then Reena texted me at 8.28 to push it back to 9.15. Fine. She's the one taking me out. 9.15 still leaves us like, 45 minutes. That's good. Any time with Reena is precious. Take what you can get. 

Yes, she said party, but I didn't suspect a thing. I thought she just meant her and me.
So I walked over to Reena's place, and she's scrambling around getting ready. It was great for me to watch her as she hurriedly put on her makeup and her high heels and fixed her hair. I thought "Wow, she's going from mess to hot stuff in so fast, and all to just hang out with me! I'm so lucky". At the same time though, I was kinda like, "wait a minute, I made some effort too. And I'm here on time. Reeeeeeeenaaaa!" But I didn't say anything about that. Not like it would make things go faster. She was already getting ready faster than I thought is possible. At one point though, she was looking in her drawer and saying "Argh! I can't find the ring to match my outfit. How do I ever find anything in here", and I kinda wanted to go already so I said "Oh, I was looking around my house for my ring too, but I couldn't find it so I just said fuck it and left. That's why I'm here on time". Just dropping subtle hints, you know.

Thankfully, Reena said "fuck it." And we left her house. She said she had to get a package from Milos' place though, so we'd drop by there first. Sure, whatever, let's do that. So we walked over to Milos' place. We get there, and Reena couldn't remember which house it was, so she called him. I guess now, that she was calling him so she could let him know we're coming. Or maybe she actually just forgot. It could happen to me, so I wasn't surprised. 

Anyway, we walk up the stairs to Milos' place, and he opens the door wearing a bathrobe and house slippers, saying he totally forgot about the parcel, but that he's got it. I told him it was my birthday, out of courtesy. I mean, I was at his house, so he should know. I couldn't just let him not wish me a happy birthday. That would suck if he found out later that I was right at his house and didn't give him a chance to say happy birthday. So I said "Hey Milos. It's my birthday by the way." 

He wished me happy birthday, so we got that out of the way and then we went into his apartment. I was just following Reena like a lamb at that point and not asking any questions. I was telling myself "well, you're spending time with Reena. This is all part of it. Enjoy watching the behind-the-scenes of how Reena does it all. This is probably some package for some great event she's planning and she absolutely needs it". 

We walked through the hallway first, then Reena opened a door to the living room. It was dark, but I'm rarely scared of the dark, so I walked in with her. 

Then the lights came on! And surprise! The room was full of my friends! I was so so so surprised. They started singing the birthday song, and I joined them, singing "Happy Birthday to me". Apparently that's not the expected response, as some people told me later that night, "Did you really sing happy birthday to yourself?" But I was loving it. I was so happy I cried. Luckily that was less of an unexpected response. People seemed to be okay with tears. Tears were okay. It wasn't a social faux pas. I was golden. 

We then proceeded to have a great night which really has been the best birthday I've ever had.

I've thanked everyone already, and I know I should stop thanking them before it starts becoming rude. But I really am so thankful today. 

Yay, I'm 25! 


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