Two weeks ago today I turned 31. That number looks old now that I see it typed out. So instead I’ll call it 10 years since I turned 21. Nope, still feels old.
I had a low-key birthday this year and I wondered two weeks later whether or not I should have pushed myself to celebrate big-style. Perhaps last year’s epic drunk-fest to ring in 30 was celebration enough for two birthdays.
I reflected on the past three weeks. The last time I felt motivated to do any real work was right before my birthday. On my actual birthday, I had a yoga session in the morning. I went to lunch with two friends and perused diamond jewelry. I ordered-in dinner with a friend and delighted in every last drop of birthday love pouring in. This seemed fine enough but I wondered: Did I unknowingly slip into a state of depression hence my laissez-faire attitude? Was this a low-life state or was I playing hard to get? Perhaps I wanted my birthday to be a planned affair entirely orchestrated by someone else. Or maybe I wanted to acknowledge it without going overboard. I counted back to previous birthdays of mine (at least the last 5), trying to remember what I did.
What was this birthday anxiety all about?
There’s almost always a pre-planned outfit involved, a silky smooth blowout, and a fresh mani/pedi. Lunch or dinner or both. Cakes, flowers, singing/clapping. But along with this, a lot of pressure, especially this year. What are you supposed to do on your birthday? There’s really no rule of thumb . You’re supposed to do whatever you want. And this year, it was sitting at home in my pajamas watching Netflix with my roommate. She surprised me with a decadent chocolate cake and candles. It was simple, sweet and kind of perfect.
Birthdays should be celebrated— calls/FaceTimers coming from all ends of the world, all day long, with well-wishes and birthday cheers. A showering of love ensues and because of this you feel a little extra special on your day.
On this particular born-day of mine, my back ached. My body wasn’t ready for all the birthday prep and the stamina it required to dress myself up for a night out. My birthday fell on a Monday so the Sunday before I felt anxiety building inside me. I got in the elevator, official met the sweet South African bodyguard on her last day of work and considered a day at the spa. I felt stress/anxiety building inside me and knew this was a wrong move.
What is came down was this: I wasn’t feeling well and I wished I did.
If I let the birthday pressure get to me, I most certainly would have pushed myself to look the whole part even though I didn’t feel it.
Rather than running away from my anxiety and endlessly denying it, I tried to understand it. Where was this pressure coming from? What would happen if I stayed at home? Would anyone know? (the proverbial tree in the forest) Did I feel too self-important and wished people cared more? There’s no birthday police, no one to force me outside of my cozy Bandra apartment. It was all on me.
I’m in India without my core family and friends around and felt it a little harder today. Plus my back ached.
This year I understood it was okay to not feel in tip-top shape on your birthday and I don’t mean because of a hangover: emotionally. Every year when April 10th comes around, in an effort to welcome the incoming age and shed my younger skin (and take decent pictures of myself), I doll myself up and celebrate the birthday with all of the above. “You should go get your nails done, your hair done, the works!” my yoga teacher shouted. Maybe I believed this was a form of practicing self love on your birthday. This year, that would have been the opposite.
This year, I didn’t force myself into a 3 hour salon ordeal. Growth, I thought. This is growth. I made an effort to do small things for myself throughout the day that acknowledged my birthday without going overboard.
It wasn’t the first time I could actually feel myself grow spiritually or experience newfound internal wisdom. If you’re ever felt it happen, growth is 100% a visceral feeling.
I wanted to my hair to just be. My nails remain unpainted, unpolished and uncut. I wished for my back to feel better and to allow myself to soak it all in the love the came through in the form of phone calls, texts, social media love, flowers and cakes. I let other people do the work this year. I didn’t want to play birthday girl and because I realized this, I felt extremely satisfied. Until a week ago when my back pain eased up and I wondered if depression silently clouded any desire I might have had to get up and celebrate.
This wasn’t depression or a battle of mind over matter. I finally listened to my body long enough to rule out my mind in order to feel my best.
At 31, I finally swapped out sparkly nails and blow outs for cotton pjs and curly hair. This was Birthday Growth.