I remember when my birthday was an exciting prospect. A day that couldn’t come fast enough. I looked forward to presents, and cake, and all of the things that come with birthdays. Now that I’m 31 it’s not the same. I have not reached that point where I dread getting older, or the number of said age, but I no longer feel that joyous excitement of my childhood. I joke that I am a year older and not any wiser but I don’t actually mean that.
At 31 (which is neither young nor old) I feel grateful. Grateful for another year of life. Grateful for all the things I get to do, see, read, and make. I’m filled with such immense happiness about the wonderful things in my life. My friends who sustain me in ways that food and water cannot. The ones that remind me of another place and time many years ago and whose lasting friendships are a testament to the enduring power (and importance) of companionate love. The friends with whom I can be my most vulgar, perverted, and carefree. The friends with whom I discuss the issues that get me riled up such as politics, racism, sexism, and religion. The friends that ask me how I am doing and who are interested in my mental health.
Thirty-one years of life has taught my that being liked is overrated. That I cannot compromise who I am and what I believe in order to fit in. It is not worth it. Likability is a poison to me. It entails censoring myself because I fear offending those that don’t give offending me a second thought. Along with my gratitude there is a consciousness. A consciousness about my own happiness and how I am responsible for it. I choose what to care about, what to see, hear and listen to. I choose who and what to allow into my life. That is a powerful thing to realize.
I’m unlearning a lot of things currently. For instance: I no longer try to hide the fact that I menstruate by shamefully hiding my tampons in my purse and going to great lengths so that no person is ever made uncomfortable with the sight of these. I am unlearning all of the gender bullshit I grew up with. I am also learning to walk away from people that don’t know when to shut up. Social media gives us this constant exposure to wonderful and terrible things. Some people decide to express the terrible, the uneducated and the bigoted. They haven’t learned that it is okay to shut the hell up so I do it for them. Muting and un-friending people is self-care.
Basically, I am in a constant state of learning and unlearning. It’s not pleasant. It’s painful. It makes me uncomfortable but it’s worth it. So this birthday is all about feeling grateful, being unapologetically myself, and committing myself to learning, listening and making changes especially when it makes me uncomfortable.
I am thirty today! I remember when thirty sounded like a big number. I don’t think I’ve ever feared turning thirty but I used to have a specific idea of what my life would look like once I hit this so-called milestone. Here are thirty random thoughts…
- It’s great to plan but it’s equally great to be flexible.
- There is no timeline. We shouldn’t rush into major life decisions because we feel we are running against the clock. Marriage and kids are not requirements.
- Meeting people online gets a bad rap but it can be very rewarding. Some of my closest friends are ones that I met on the internet.
- Speak up. Learning to use your words is a necessary lifeskill that will serve you well in all your relationships. When we communicate honestly and effectively we are happier for it.
- Confrontation is never fun, but it’s a fact of life. I don’t go looking for confrontation as I would much rather avoid it but on occasion it’s better to face the issue head on and move on.
- Friends are what keeps me sane. If it weren’t for venting sessions and overall silliness I don’t know what I would do. Now more than ever friends are a central part of my life and I am thankful for them every day.
- All relationships take work. This doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships but friendships as well. All relationships are an investment. Whether it’s your spouse, significant other, friend or relative if we want to keep our relationships healthy we need to work on them constantly.
- Staying in touch is important. Sometimes I get lazy about keeping in touch with friends. Facebook and other social media gives us a false sense of intimacy. Because we see our friends posts and photos we cease to initiate personal contact with them. A phone-call, text, or e-mail is a great way to stay connected in a meaningful way when distance prevents you from hanging out in person.
- College degrees are over-valued. I will never regret going to university. For one thing it’s where I met my husband, but it was also a great experience overall. Still, having a degree isn’t what it used to be.
- Don’t stick your nose up at work. Believing that you are too good to do a certain job is icky. Don’t be a snob. We all have aspirations but your first job out of college will likely be completely unrelated to what you want to do.
- Read. I know some people don’t enjoy reading, and that’s ok, but reading is an important part of my life. I love getting lost in a book, learning about a new topic or simply reading about things from a point of view different from my own.
- It’s ok to wear makeup.
- It’s ok to go without make up.
- Removing toxic people from your life is not selfish, it’s smart.
- Most people are doing the best they can.
- Following a recipe is great and all but sometimes recipes leave things out. I’ve just had first hand experience with bread: your kitchen needs to be warm and if it’s not you need to create a warm environment for your dough to rise. (turning your oven on to 200 degrees and turning it off is a common recommendation)
- The internet is forever. I don’t understand why more people don’t grasp this. I see a lot of airing of dirty laundry on social media and it often just makes me cringe.
- I dislike lists that tell women what they should have accomplished by a certain age or what things they should or shouldn’t be doing. We are all different. Some of us can’t afford a hefty savings account because we don’t make enough money! We all move through life at our own pace and while some of these ideas have merit these lists only serve to shame and make those who don’t live up to them feel inferior.
- Don’t pay any mind to silly lists on the internet. See above.
- By definition this IS a silly list. Don’t pay it any mind 😉
- I think every human should have a working knowledge of cooking, food safety and basic house upkeep. If you’re able-bodied and capable, then you should be able to take care of yourself.
- There is only ONE way to achieve a bikini body/summer swimsuit body: put on a swimsuit and strut your stuff at the beach or pool. As long as YOU are comfortable nothing else matters. Other acceptable forms of swimwear- shorts and tee shirt, tank top, wetsuit, etc. You can wear as much or a little as you want. The idea that a beach body is one free of flaws and under a certain size makes me sick.
- Feminism/feminist is NOT a dirty word. Stop it. I hear women declare “I’m not a feminist, but…” why is that? If you’re unsure, do your own research and assign labels to yourself as you see fit but please do it out of an informed decision and not just because you have been led to believe it’s a bad thing.
- Speaking of believing it’s ok not to believe. I used to be very afraid of letting people know I am not religious. Religion is one of those things that can get people worked up fast and I find it an impolite topic of conversation but in the right environment it’s a great discussion to have. I always say that I haven’t been given the gift of faith but I support all those who have theirs.
- Hand written thank you notes. What more is there to say? I love getting these in the mail and I love sending them out to friends. I feel it’s not practiced enough. Sending a thank you text just doesn’t measure up the personal touch of a handwritten note.
- Hand made/homemade things are awesome. If you have the time and inclination of course.
- Writing lists seems like a great idea until you get to no. 27 and realize you have nothing left to write.
- Further down you start to question the whole thing.
- By 29 you feel like a cheat but with only one more to go you figure you can fake your way through this.
- Cookies can’t fix your problems but they make them more bearable.
Some days it feels like I am jumping through hoops that happen to be aflame.You don’t need to be a parent to know what I am talking about. When we stop to think about it we all have a myriad of responsibilities at any given time. It’s performance art at it’s finest. Stirring the morning oatmeal while carefully helping a toddler with his sippy cup, chatting on the phone with customer service while folding laundry, sweeping the floors while listening to an audiobook, or favorite podcast, the list is endless. There are rings of fire everywhere and we somehow manage to leap through them without being singed, most of the time anyway. For me, the biggest ring of fire is most often my anxiety followed by smaller rings that need to be negotiated.
This week is a busy one for me. My husband turned 30 today and I wanted to make his birthday special, so that turned into a little project for me. We are also going on vacation this weekend and there’s a lot of packing and list making to do. On top of that there’s the daily task of keeping the house clean and its inhabitants fed (and clean as well!).
A week like this one really gets started a few weeks in advance. I ordered a present for my husband online and I also decided to start a group card for him. If you’ve never heard of this service you should definitely check it out here. It’s a fun way to make a birthday special. I also did some Pinterest research for ideas for a birthday cake. I usually bake a cake for my husband’s birthday, it’s become tradition. As much as I love to keep things hot and spicy in the challenge department I decided that I could not manage to bake a cake this time. I just felt like I had too much going on. I could have baked a cake but I was afraid of what that would do to my overall timeline. A friend pointed out that baking should be fun. I agreed, and decided that stressing out over a cake was not worth it. I decided to order a cake from my local grocer’s bakery.
I still wanted to make the cake my own so I ordered a vanilla cake with white buttercream frosting. Two tiers, with a border. The decorating I would do at home. Such a simple thing saved me hours in the kitchen. I have decided that this has been a brilliant idea. Do any of you do this? I can think of so many awesome ways I can decorate one of these store-bought cakes. It might just be the new tradition.
On Tuesday I ordered the cake and picked it up that evening while doing my grocery shopping. Before heading home I stopped at the Dollar Tree for some balloons and adhesive tape. I also picked up a banner that I wasn’t planning on purchasing but once I saw it I knew that I did not want to make it as I had planned. Once I got home I had to clean up the after-dinner mess and tidy up a bit before finally sitting down to work on Wednesday’s birthday celebration. It’s a lot of multi-tasking.
Here’s how the big day turned out:
Dinner at Friday’s.
Cool birthday sign I picked up at the dollar store.
The finished cake. I added the ribbon and the bunting.