The Problem with Birthdays as You Grow Up

When I was little, my birthday parties were something I always looked forward to- it was an all-day affair complete with balloons, party games, and goodie bags. My entire class would be invited, and all of the parents would come to ooh and aah over the magical theme party that my mom had spent the week putting together. The spotlight was on me, the birthday girl- as it should be, since it was my special day.

But as I've grown older, I've found my 'special' one day a year to be something that I've dreaded, rather than looked forward to. Unlike when I was in elementary school, I don't count down the days until June 20th or daydream about the many gifts I knew I would receive. In fact, I probably spend more time worrying about whether or not people will remember my birthday than I do building up any excitement toward the day.

One of my early birthday ragers- 'Mr. Sun' was my jam.

There's a certain expectation when it comes to birthdays: that our families will make a huge fuss and shower us with love and affection, that not only will our closest friends wish us a happy birthday, but that even our high school crush who we hardly spoke to will acknowledge our special day on Facebook. We expect birthday shout-outs on every social media platform possible: from Twitter mentions, to Instagram collages, to fleeting snapchat pictures.

Back when I was in elementary school, I didn't have a single worry when it came to my birthday. I knew that everything would be taken care of by my parents, and I didn't feel anxious about whether or not my friends would remember because, at the time, my circle of friends was small, and only existed via face-to-face contact (as opposed to my 900 Facebook 'friends').

The truth is, as you grow up, birthdays simply get harder. Your friends might not have an entire day free to hang out with you, and your parents probably won't throw a princess themed birthday bash for you (if your parents actually do that for you, consider me completely jealous). But that doesn't mean you should just sulk around on your birthday, hoping for someone to make the day special for you.

Some advice my mom is constantly giving me is that you are responsible for your own happiness. This means that no one can make you happy- that you have to find the joy in your own life, and if it isn't there yet, it's up to you to make it happen.

Birthday cupcakes from this weekend (photo courtesy of Haruka).

When it comes to birthdays, I've taken this advice to mean that if I want to have a fabulous day, then I have to do whatever it takes to make it fabulous. This year, that meant organizing a joint-birthday trip to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum with a few friends (and some of our moms), getting a crew of 15 friends together for a late-night bonfire (complete with sparklers), and eating lots and lots of cake with my family.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum- definitely one of my favorite spots in Boston. 

There's nothing wrong with wanting to have a birthday with all the bells and whistles- but you can't expect others to make it happen for you. If you take your one day a year as something that is as special as you yourself make it, then who knows, you might be surprised by the lengths your friends and family will go to make you feel special. 

P.S. I want to give some major shout-outs to all of the people who made my 19th birthday this past weekend so incredibly special. Even though 19 isn't a particularly remarkable age, it had to be one of my best birthdays ever. My favorite moment of the day? When one of my brothers gave me a little chocolate mousse cake during our camp open-house. Definitely one of those little surprises that made me smile.  

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