My birthdays are usually nerve wracking and depressing because I never truly feel celebrated which consequently makes me sad. I don’t care much for attention on most days but on my birthday I want to be feted by my friends and family, to drown in love the whole
month day, to wear a beautiful dress and be the belle of the ball. I have this idea of what I want my birthday to be, and also what I think a birthday should be and then I stress myself out and feel sad when I am alone on my birthday.
Three years ago, my birthday fell on a weekday and I took the day off. Of course I made no plans, despite talking incessantly about all the things I wanted to to. I had no one to do anything with because well it was a weekday. I was sad and emotional over what a failure my day was. Eventually at about noon I got dressed, put on makeup (my bright red lipstick), wore my oversized fashion sunglasses, faux fur coat and just went outside. Immediately I got out I felt much better. Though it was chilly enough for a coat, it was also deliciously sunny. I got on a train and went to a nearby city, visited a couple of museums, had lunch by myself at a Caribbean restaurant and then ended the day with a play (where I lost the battle against sleep). It ended up being a good day which I would have wasted by moping around. Looking back I was rather childish. If I wanted to be celebrated by others, I could have planned a weekend event and invited them to it no?
Two years ago, the familiar dread that heralds my birthday started again. I had spent a weekend in Paris with my friend and even though I tried to tell myself that was my birthday gift to myself, the fact was that I was not in Paris on my actual birthday so of course I was worried about the day. Listen, I nearly drove myself into insanity. I thought I had to have an event and invite my colleagues to it but of course I was stressed because 1) I was not particularly close to most of them and did not care to hang with them 2) I was almost certain they would want to come or find it awkward seeing as we were not close 3) I could not figure out what event they would be interested in (karaoke? escape room?). I was stressed the fuck out. I would be having a good time thinking about nothing and then thoughts of my impending birthday would infiltrate my mind and hello stress. If I sound like a nutter it is because I am. Eventually my birthday came around and I got dolled up, stopped by Krispy Kreme and bought three packs of doughnuts and took it in. Everyone was delighted to have doughnuts and they regaled me with a rousing rendition of Happy birthday. Later that day I had a last minute dinner with a few friends which was lovely. They bought me a cake and a party hat and I felt so loved and happy. The next day my dear friend got on the train with her daughter and came to spend the night with me. She brought a card and presents; we hung out and it was delightful. The birthday ended up being amazing.
Last year, I decided to save myself the stress and start planning my birthday from the moment the clock struck midnight ushering in the new year. It dawned on me that I am the only one responsible for making sure I have a good birthday. Of course I must have always known this, but still on some level I seem to have expected some magic to occur and for me to be surprised with a fantasy day. It is ridiculous to expect other people who have stressful lives of their own to be preoccupied with me and my birthday, especially as I am not preoccupied with them and their birthday.
Armed with this new understanding, I decided to put together a plan of everything I wanted to do and then make it happen. See I have this nasty habit of over analysing everything and trying to predict people’s reactions. There were things I wanted to do but I worried myself sick thinking about whether my friends would be willing to do it or whether they would be willing (or able) to spend a lot of money celebrating my birthday. Eventually one of my friends said “just let us know what you want to do” and I did. I wanted to have a sleepover with my friends, have a nice meal in this fancy restaurant, and do some fun activity after. I told them this much and they did not complain or object. Those who could make it did and they were willing to spend whatever amount.
The day before my birthday I went out for dinner and a movie with one of my friends. I went to one of my favourite restaurants and saw a movie which I had been looking forward to watching. I went home happy and ready to usher in my birthday.
On my actual birthday, I took the day off from work and treated myself to a nice brunch and spa session. I got my nails done a pretty pink colour and felt so beautiful. Then I packed my things and headed off to my friends place for a sleepover. She ordered me dinner and we watched a silly film on Netflix.
The next day was my actual celebration- I wore the most beautiful dress and headed off to Sketch London, a place I had always wanted to visit in part due to its glorious pink room and surreal toilets (yes toilets). The food was delicious and we took lots of pictures. We then roamed around Oxford Street, eating street crepes and window shopping until it was time for our other event. Then we headed off to Swingers for some indoor golf which was a riot. Finally we sat and had dinner before heading back home.
The next day I packed my things to head back home but before then my friend and her boyfriend treated me to a nice lunch in a Lebanese restaurant. It ended up being an absolutely fantastic weekend- I did everything I wanted to do. I bought the dress I wanted, looked how I wanted, ate what I wanted and I definitely felt loved and happy. That was the best birthday in a while and I felt spoiled the whole weekend. I got back home on cloud 9, happy as can be and pleased that I finally had the birthday of my dreams and I made it happen.
My birthday this year was in lockdown and it was quite alright. Of course the stress of doing something was eliminated, thankfully. I woke up early went out to get myself some flowers and ice cream, made myself some brownies and had a virtual party with my friends. It was lovely.
What have I learnt from this? There is no standard birthday template; think of what you want to do and invite people to join you (if you want). Also important to note is that you do not have to do something! You can stay home and read a book in silence if that is what makes you happy.
It is so easy to feel unloved and sorry for oneself when really all you have to do is reach out. Sure it would be nice for people to spoil you but your happiness remains your responsibility. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and make yourself happy!
In writing this, I have looked back on my life and realised that while I have had some doozies, I have also had some pretty great birthdays where people showed up for me. But of course it’s easier to remember the bad/dull times.
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