This week I celebrated my birthday. Well, actually I’ve been celebrating my birthday since last Friday, but the actual day was Tuesday. I like to spread my birthday celebration out so that I’m too busy having fun, and don’t stop to ponder getting one year older. Don’t get me wrong, I love my birthday, I mean I really love my birthday. My family takes birthdays very seriously, or at least they take my birthday very seriously. This may be a result of my behavior on my birthday: I cry. I cry every year. And I’m not talking about shedding one or two sentimental tears. No, January 21st reduced me to a blubbering, weeping, basket case.
My mother says I have been this way from the beginning. Literally. But I was finally able to articulate the tremendous emotions I was feeling on my sixth birthday. She recalls (I swear I’m not making this up) that per usual, I was crying (probably right after she and my dad had gifted me whatever I had wanted, maybe a Cabbage Patch Kid) and when she asked what was wrong, I responded, “I’m not ready to be six. I was just getting comfortable with five.” Seriously, I said that. She should have taken me to a shrink that instant.
It’s been the same sad story every year since. My family and friends know that tears are inevitable, so they go to great lengths to make me happy on my birthday. And I always have an amazing time…and then I cry. It’s really rather ridiculous. Birthdays signify both the biggest change (one year—number-wise—older), and the smallest change (you feel the same way on Tuesday morning as you did Monday night) at the very same time.
This week I marked a milestone that sounds old to me, and the weeks leading up to it, I felt uneasy and a little blue. I certainly don’t feel old. And despite what others may think, I don’t (usually) feel that just because I’m a single, 30-something, that I’m somehow behind, or missing out (although I have my moments). I love my life! Is it what I thought it would be like as a teenager (read about that here)? No. But it’s this interesting, diverse, exciting life that I’ve created for myself. My mother often cites my Joie de vivre. I’m on this kooky journey and I can honestly say I have no idea where I will end up, but I know I will laugh and learn a lot along the way.
I was coy about my age when my mostly younger co-workers took me out Friday night (I was told I looked great for 30. I just smiled). I enjoyed the Patriots game, if not the outcome, on Sunday with some of my best friends. I unwrapped an amazing birthday gift from my parents on Monday and enjoyed a girl’s dinner out on Tuesday.
And then a funny thing happened, or didn’t happen, when I got home. With snow falling over Boston, my feet up on the aforementioned birthday gift, and a glass of Veuve in my hand, I went through all the lovely birthday texts, emails and messages I had received (thank goodness for Facebook)…and I didn’t cry…for the first time in 35 years. I didn’t feel sad, or behind, or old. Instead, I felt lucky for all that I have, and excited about all that is right around the corner for me.
I really feel more like myself in my 30’s. Oprah would say that I am becoming my “authentic self.” I’m more accepting of limitations, not afraid to show off my strengths, and overall, more comfortable in my skin. And it seems I’m more comfortable with my birthday as well. That’s what we call progress.