Tanika Mally

Arts & Review Editor

Just last year if you were to ask me how I would celebrate my sweet sixteen, I probably would have responded by describing the typically lavish or extravagant celebration, most likely a large party with lots of people in attendance. 

Now, in the midst of a pandemic and after a highly tense and stressful election, I can assure you that this was not the case at all. 

On the morning of November 3rd, I turned sixteen years old. The sun filtered through the blinds of my window just as it did every morning and the struggle to get out of bed was still highly prominent. Being sixteen didn’t make me feel any different, or even look any different, however with a realization that hit me at the speed of light, I was reminded with the knowledge that even though I didn’t change, the world around me had. The otherwise typical glamor and festivity of becoming a sixteen year old girl in America would remain a slightly foreign notion to me.

Being sixteen in America has always been a trademark of sorts, a rite of journey, some would say, and I can admit that when I was a little girl, I had fantasized about celebrating the event in a manner similar to the film 16 Wishes.

Though, now that I think about it, having to blow a candle that could wish away a pandemic would be useful in such a situation.

However, as I grew older and became more aware of the world around me (financially, emotionally, politically), the hype of birthdays gradually died down. 

Or at least I thought it did.

It surprised me how excited I was for the day I woke up as a sixteen year old. The day’s agenda hadn’t changed. I still had that chemistry test during second block looming over me, and my long-awaiting list of chores was still waiting to be done. If we’re including the events occurring outside of my school life, then the country’s political climate wasn’t faring too much better. With anticipation and anxiety running high,  I would find myself with the rest of my family sitting in front of the TV, as the screen displayed what millions of Americans would also be watching: the election map.

It was the small things, however, that truly made this birthday special. In the past, it would be so easy for teachers to miss out on a student’s birthday, but with the attendance check taken much more seriously this year, I found myself on the receiving end of many warm, personal birthday wishes from teachers I’ve even yet to meet in person.

Students in those classes took it upon themselves to wish me “Happy Birthday” personally through the private zoom chats, something I didn’t even think was necessary. It’s incredibly difficult to recreate the close in-person classroom environment that occurs when students are in constant communication with one another through a Zoom call, so to say I was close with some of them would be lying. Nonetheless, the thoughts and efforts of these students to do so put a smile on my face.

Tanika’s sixteenth birthday cake

My parents are probably the biggest reason, though, why I never felt anything was lacking in my Sweet Sixteen. For dinner that night, they ordered my favorite dishes from my favorite Thai restaurant, Rhong Tiam, bought me my favorite cake (black forest), and even decorated a small part of the house with pink and gold balloons and streamers- all of them saying “HAPPY SWEET SIXTEEN”. They sang me “Happy Birthday” along with one other family of friends that joined us, attempted to smear cake all over my face, and prayed for my good health and happiness.

Celebrating a birthday is especially difficult during such trying times. However, despite the fact that I didn’t celebrate my sixteenth birthday the way I might’ve initially planned not so long ago, it was due to the amazingly kind people around that I was able to forget just what I might have missed out on.

Source: The Daily Northwestern

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