On Tuesday I had a birthday. It was a day that marked the passing of 364 days since the last day I reflected intensely on and took inventory of where I was at in life. Now, full disclosure, I don’t own a birthday foam finger. That is to say, I’m not a big fan of them. It’s not that I despise getting older (“It’s better than the alternative,” my dad, Big Rog, would say), it’s the expectation and, ultimately, letdown it induces.
Look no further than your facebook wall. “Happy National Holiday!” “You deserve the most special day ever!” “I hope it’s epic! Go do something amazing with your girls!” It’s the LeBron James of calendar occasions. No single day can live up to that hype. It’s just not possible to artificially impregnate a specific, designated 24 hours with all the joys and surprises and rewards you’ve been wishing for all year, or the well-meaning, completely unattainable dreams that cascade down from your social circle.
But we try, don’t we? It’s OK to admit it … I’ll go first so you don’t have to. The embarrassing truth is, as our grown-ass heads meet the pillow on our respective birthday eves, we entertain impossible possibilities that awaken a childlike exhilaration and anticipation, the likes of which rival only Christmas itself. Then we try to talk ourselves down from the high … “Oh my gosh, that’s crazy to think that my boss is going to just send me home for my special day.” “OK, Courtney, they are not going to name a burger after you at Brava’s just because you got older.” “A 20-day getaway to an all-inclusive hut with a window in the floor where you can see fish? He would never!”
For me, the downright preposterous delusions drown out practicality all the way through mid-afternoon of my actual birthday, when I realize that this year, much like last year, will be marked by thoughtful messages from friends of the past and present, a handful of funny cards about farts and drinking too much (my favorite things) and vanilla cupcakes from Kroger with the whipped cream frosting. They are humble, delightful traditions, and they are mine. The truth is, contradictory to what this post might imply, I relish every small, special nod I get on November 3. I do. They just aren’t on the My Super Sweet 16 scale that I uncontrollably harvest a desire for from some disgusting place in the depths of my selfish, greedy subconscious. It’s a gross internal battle and I blame the aforementioned MTV reality series.
Perhaps most sobering, is the acceptance that there is no magic spell that befalls my home on that day. The girls still fight. The dishwasher still needs emptied. The laundry still needs put away. The workout still needs to get done. As hard as I silently send out wishes to my fairy godmother, the chores and the sibling conflicts just keep right on coming, like punches to a piñata at my mental fiesta. Again, the rational woman in me chuckles at the notion that anything would change just because of an event that took place 33 years ago. But the 7-year-old birthday girl cries a little bit.
I have friends who are great birthday people. They organize nice evenings out in celebration of their lives, and manage to mark the occasion year after year with the perfect marriage of merriment and modesty. But I shutter at the thought of planning an event in my own honor and instead choose to sit by and let it pass, all the while secretly pining for grand gestures. It’s not in my typical nature, I swear. It’s an annual internal display of obnoxious narcissism that I’ll never understand and can’t believe I’m owning right now. It’s not pretty and it’s not cute, but all of this ugliness is why I don’t care for my birthday. But I love everyone else’s.
(Editor’s note: Thank you so much to everyone who sent me a birthday message on facebook. It’s so thoughtful and truly one of the happiest highlights of the day.)
Now that we have that rant all neatly wrapped up, I’d like to take just a few bullet points to toast the things I actually managed to accomplish in my 32nd year of life. Some big, some small, all a hash mark to verify I was striving for something.
I dropped the butts. The mere fact that my smoking habit hung on as long as it did embarrasses me, but I won’t carry it on to 33. You’re welcome, lungs. And sorry about that.
Oh, did I mention I ran 13.1 miles? I might have already talked about the fact that I completed my first half marathon. I still can’t motha cluckin’ believe dat ish. Huge bucket list bullseye there.
I talked to you folks. The reality is, it’s not easy fitting this fun little writing project of mine into the gridlocked traffic jam that is our Monday through Sunday. But it’s a release. It’s a time capsule. It’s a priority because it proves I can still find myself at the crossroads of profession and passion. And I’ve kept it going for the past year, which was something I really wanted to prove to myself. I might only post once a week, but it’s still breathing.
Aluminum-free at 33. I put some persistent paranoia to bed and finally found an effective, healthy deodorant.
Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. I did the ballsiest thing I can remember myself doing in years, and switched jobs back in June. It’s been a road of small victories, lots of lessons and invaluable self discovery.
I fell for Emma. After years of Hank and I talking about the kind of parents we wanted to be and the corners of the world we wanted to take our kids, we finally took a step in that direction. We’re pulling our modest little popup around and putting pins in the map. It feels so good running alongside our adventures rather than just chasing them.