I am a celebrator. I love to celebrate the small moments as well as the milestones, achievements, beginnings, and endings. I am also a firm believer in making sure to celebrate these aspects of life for myself. That is, I make sure to put plans into place to celebrate my own upcoming milestones or achievements. Confession #1. I often mark an important occasion by getting myself a gift, making sure I have a physical reminder of that significant event. For example, when I earned my second bachelor’s degree, I knew that no one was going to put up some big fanfare since I had already graduated from college before. But, it was important to me. So rather than wait for someone to do something to celebrate my second degree, and then have that not happen, I bought myself a beautiful watch I had been eyeing up for a year. Similarly, when I learned the good news that I was cancer-free following surgery, complications from surgery, follow-up treatment, complications from follow-up treatment, and a gazillion scans and tests, I bought myself an “I-kicked-cancer’s-ass” ring; I wear that ring almost every day with deep gratitude for my health. Among these moments in life I find important to mark, birthdays rank up there. Including my own birthday. Confession #2.
You see, I used to pride myself in being this person that didn’t need to do much for my birthday. Growing up, I don’t remember my birthday being much of an event. It seems like the day has come and gone with little to-do about it. As I grew into an adult and then have been together with Tony, we’d maybe go out to dinner and have his delicious homemade apple pie (I’m a birthday pie kinda gal, not birthday cake). But that was about it and that was enough. After all, for the majority of the time we have been together, we were poor graduate students. So not making a big deal of my birthday was fine. But really, if I’m truly honest, it isn’t fine. Having my birthday be like every other day on the calendar (except for that amazing pie) ISN’T fine. Confession #3. After all these years, I can be truthful and say that not doing much for my birthday leaves me feeling deflated and disappointed. Confession #4. And then, having those deflated and disappointed feelings makes me feel really guilty and shitty. Like I shouldn’t be feeling deflated and disappointed, and I should get over it. Confession #5. And then, hiding those deflated and disappointed and guilty and shitty feelings makes me feel ashamed. Confession #6.
Admitting all this and sharing it here so publicly is hard. I feel a bit selfish in saying that my birthday matters to me. I feel a bit needy in sharing that I want other people to celebrate me and my day. But…it is true. Confession #7. And the truth is liberating. Now, with all this truth-telling, don’t think that I’ve thrown out my old habits. I have, for sure, made plans to celebrate my birthday. After all, it’s a milestone birthday and I can’t quite leave it open to too much disappointment. My gift to myself is attending an art retreat where I’ll take a painting class that I’m super excited (and scared!) for. I’ve also planned an actual birthday party for which I made and snail-mailed real invitations adorned with my photography. And then, there’s a BIG trip planned in June with Tony to really do the birthday celebration justice. So yeah, I’m still working to temper any disappointment or feelings of deflation by putting all this in to motion. But, I’m also allowing space for those I love to celebrate me, too. And more importantly, I’m fessin’ up that my birthday matters to me. I think that is the real gift of growing older — being myself, my true self, with the honest wishes of my heart being released into the world.
This Polaroid of the spring tulips is also a gift to me — both in the awesome new film from the Impossible Project and the capturing of these quintessential April flowers. What about you? Does your birthday matter to you? Do you want others to celebrate you?
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