How to Make Your (Grown-Up) Birthday Special
A big one
In a way, I was really looking forward to turning thirty. That was a milestone, a really special one. Unlike many of my friends, I wasn’t worried that our youth was over, nor was I dreading getting older.
On the contrary, I was looking forward to moving out of a decade of youthful insecurities and body hang-ups, a long awkward phase of unrequited crushes and zig-zaggy career moves.
Newly married and full of ideas, I was convinced that my thirties would find me more mature and confident. That I’d be able to make the intelligent, true-to-myself decisions that would inevitably lead me to Permanent Happiness, a mythical concept I’d only had fleeting encounters with in my teens and twenties.
And I was ready for the new me.
The trouble is, I now can’t even remember what I did or where I was for my 30th birthday, nor the three that have passed since. It’s not that I was too drunk to remember… it’s that I was too preoccupied with… #life.
I have another birthday coming up soon, and I’m pretty much unmoved by it. My husband feels the same way about his birthdays.
What happened to us?
Our birthdays aren’t completely ignored, of course. Our families host special events for us, it’s true, and I may have lunch with a friend or two around that time. I do genuinely appreciate everything done in my honor.
But I don’t necessarily feel it. That excitement, that anticipation, that waking-up-on-birthday-morning giddiness.
My husband and I don’t really do anything special to mark the occasion, or exchange expensive/meaningful gifts between us, rationalizing that money is too tight and we’ll celebrate these things later.
Crash Course in Grown-Upery
Adult Life gets in the way, I suppose, of daydreaming of what to do for my birthday like I used to: what kind of party I wanted to have and where; who I would invite; what to wear; the infinite pleasure of drawing up a wishlist of items I’d been pining for all year.
I had even created an important rule for myself: No Work on Birthdays.
I would literally cram all of my favorite things into that one day. Sleep in, get woken up by friends calling to belt out the Happy Birthday song on the phone, have toast with Nutella in my pj’s, hang out and watch a cheesy movie (or two), read magazines, have a massage or get our nails done, have dinner at my favorite restaurant and then, of course, get ready for a night of partying (and really enjoying it)!
Case in point: On my twenty-sixth birthday I was at my favorite bar with all my people when someone told the lead singer of the band that it was my birthday. Next thing I knew, I was up onstage belting out a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” in front of hundreds of screaming fans.
|this is what it looked like… ok, maybe it just felt like this|
Birthdays used to be mile markers worth celebrating, a time to reflect on everything I’d done in the past year and set a bunch of thrilling new goals for the coming one. A fresh, clean slate!
A time when I could spoil myself strictly in the name of fun and surround myself with all my favorite people. Each December when I got a new calendar I’d go straight to May twelfth and write MY BIRTHDAY!! in huge capital letters, not to remind myself of the date, but because it was a priority.
I know some people who make a big deal about their birthday, and even one (ahem, I’m lookin’ at you Melissa 😉 ) who declares the entire month of June her birthday month. Impromptu celebrations could break out at any time!
But to me, birthdays now feel like ordinary days that pass by unobserved like any other. No faint feeling of enchantment, feeling ever-so-slightly older and wiser as soon as I open my eyes in the morning. No balloons on my breakfast chair. No love notes found throughout the day. The magic is gone.
Or is it?
This is not how I want things to continue. I want to create new traditions for my family, especially since our baby girl just arrived.
Traditions are important: they shape our actions and help create memories. They bring comfort and familiarity. They give us things to look forward to. I don’t want the inherent and simple specialness of things to just erode just because we get busy (and by that I mean lazy).
I want to feel it in every way I can.
There is no catch-up time for celebrating important moments later. This is it. It’s now, today, that counts, not some future time. It’s foolish for any of us to think we have all the time in the world to enjoy life later — it can be gone in the blink of an eye — and if we have the opportunity to celebrate a special moment, it’s our responsibility to seize it.
New Birthday Rules — Grown-Up Edition
My how-to list for making the most of birthdays: