self-care

The Worst Day of the Year: My Birthday

I think for most kids, birthdays are the second best days of the year (the first being, for most people, Christmas). I know this was the case for me. The night before my birthday, I usually had trouble sleeping of sheer excitement for the day to come. I knew that when I woke up and came bounding down the stairs, there would be an enormous “happy birthday!” sign hanging from the back door, and there would be presents and cake and a general air of celebration. Every year, my birthday was always special. It was a time of fun and love and happiness.

And then, I remember the year that it wasn’t.

When I turned nineteen, things were a little weird. It was my first year out of high school, so the people I was used to celebrating with lived in other states. There wouldn’t be any parties that year. The birthday banner had seen over 20 years of birthdays (my siblings and I shared it) and looked a little tired. And that day, my family was out of town for the most part, so the celebrating was left up to me, myself and I.

The real stinger, though? I didn’t receive one birthday card.

Not. One.

Now, this doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal. But when you’re alone, it’s nice to have people at least remembering you, even if they aren’t present. All the excitement of opening birthday cards (because mail that isn’t regarding student loans is always an exciting thing) drained away because there weren’t any to open.

At this point, I was conflicted. Part of me wanted to say that yes, I didn’t get a birthday card, but who cares? They’re just birthday cards. Don’t be melodramatic. People are busy. They’re not deliberately not sending you a birthday card – they just didn’t. It’s okay.

But another part of me was really, really upset. Is this what it means to be an adult? I wondered. Nobody cares about me anymore?

Some time later, and I’m in the same place. Birthday comes around and not only is there no birthday card, I also am too busy to celebrate it. It is what I call the ‘birthday blues’ – the one day of the year where you have every right to be happy, and just can’t seem to manage it.

So what can you do? Well, I’m going to share with you a few of the things which I do in order to still feel like a princess on my special day.

1. Reach Out to People You Care About

The very first thing I notice about myself is that when I am feeling sad, it’s usually because I’ve isolated myself in some way. When it comes to birthdays, it’s nice when people remember the date, but you can’t expect everyone else to. I have trouble remembering my own siblings’ birthdays, so people outside the family don’t have a chance.

That being said, just because someone doesn’t remember doesn’t mean that it’s not important. Its OKAY to remind someone who you want to be in the loop. For instance, a recent development in my birthday strategy has been to pick a few people (one or two) who make my life special and say the following:

“Hey, my birthday is coming up, and I would love to spend it with you. Do you think we might do something special?”

Not only do these people feel special because you want to spend your special day with them, it also alleviates pressure for them to have to guess what you want, and, worst case scenario, forget your birthday entirely.

I want to add here that asking someone to spend time with you does not make you needy. Needing human interaction makes you just that: human. And a lot of times, other people will want to spend time with you, because you singled them out in a way that says, “I chose to spend time with this person deliberately, because they bring something good into my life,” and hopefully, vice versa.

2. Have  A Party

Say what? A party? YES! You are never to old to celebrate your birthday. In fact, you are never too old to celebrate anything. Even if you don’t want to be the center of attention, you can still celebrate in your own way! Here are a few ideas:

  • treat yourself! One of the things I love about places like Starbucks is that on your birthday, they give you a free drink of your choice. Other places do this, too. Do some research. Is there a restaurant you really like? A store? A certain place somewhere in the world? Just once, just on your day, go to that place, drink that drink, eat that thing. You can bring someone with you, or you can go by yourself. There’s no problem with that. Let me repeat: there’s no problem with that.
  • Dress up for no reason. Actually, you have a reason, and a really awesome one at that! You lived another year. What’s not to celebrate? Put on your favorite clothes. Wear something you’d only wear to, say, a really special occasion. Heck, put on your old prom dress. And be sure to take pictures. LOTS OF PICTURES. And don’t try to convince me you’re not photogenic–I don’t believe it.
  • Have an actual party. If you have people you want to spend time with, ask them, with no shame, to go do something with you. Go bowling. Go to a park. Go to a movie. Or chill at your place and play wii Mario Kart, if that makes you happy. Maybe there’s a cake, maybe not. Maybe you all get together and make the cake. If you have trouble being the center of attention, you can ask your guests not to bring presents (although some of them will, this usually happens)

3. Apply Some TLC

This applies any time you’re not feeling super stellar, but especially on days when you feel like you should feel super stellar and don’t, it can be nice just to sit back and let yourself relax.

Take a long bath, if that’s something you like. Bath bombs, Epsom salts, the whole deal. This goes along with treating yourself, too. Get your hair, nails, and makeup done, if you feel that’s something you enjoy. Don’t be afraid to splurge – just a little – on your special day. 

4. Don’t Forget: You Are Important, Even If You Don’t Feel That Way.

I think the worst part about birthdays in adult life is the feeling that nothing compares to how it was when you were a kid. People don’t have big parties for you anymore, you don’t reserve rooms in Magic Castle, and everything afterwards just feels like a giant letdown. This is something that we will have to learn to live with as we get older.

But here’s what I want you to know, and what I remind myself every time this feeling comes back to me. The way we celebrate our birthdays changes over time. Yes, the parties get smaller, the hype dies down, and the number of people who remember, if anyone, dwindles down into the single digits. But one thing never changes, and that is this: your importance.

You are a valuable member of the human race. Your birthday serves as a reminder of this. As should every single day of your life. The world would be a different place without you in it. So when you mark the day on your calendar, or if you just decide to no longer mark it at all, remember this: you are important, even if you don’t feel that way.

And that, my friends, will never change.

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