When I was a kid, I had a chronic case of the birthday blues. I could feel my birthday in my tear ducts as it came closer. I'd have this dread that I couldn't explain and this pressure behind my eyes that would build and swell until it would inevitably erupt — just as the lit birthday candles made their way to the table setting in front me. My family would sing, and I would blow out the candles, just before my throat croaked with sobs. Unintentionally, I was the most ungrateful little birthday girl there was.
I could never put my finger on the root of my sadness or if it was even sadness at all. I felt overwhelmed and excited and crippled with an anticipation that wasn't linear. I wanted to be older, but time scared me. I was scared of changing. I was scared of being left behind.
By the time I was a teenager, my birthday blues became the butt of a long-running family joke. I stopped having birthday parties so that I could lower my expectations. To me, it seemed worse to put an effort into enjoying your birthday and risk ending the night the same way — in tears. It seemed safer to not try. There's a certain surge of awareness on your birthday. It's impossible to avoid the existential thoughts that surround it. Subconsciously we hold our birthdays to high standards. We want them to feel good. We want the people around us to make us feel special and loved. We want attention and affection — because we need it. Because we're vulnerable on our birthdays. Because our birthdays celebrate life while drawing our attention to the fact that it's fleeting.
Most of my adult birthdays consisted of waiting for them to be over. Three years ago, I decided to make a change. I had been going through a particularly rough time and had actual reason to not feel like celebrating. beyond the regular philosophical issues with the direction of time and the anxiety of expectation. It was the first birthday that had a tangible heaviness. I knew why I was feeling low and for some reason, it kicked a realization into view for me. Life can be so unpredictable and can knock the wind out of you with tragedy just as easily as it can lift you up with joy. Which is exactly why I could no longer give up the opportunity to spend a day celebrating. And once I changed my attitude, I started to have better birthdays.
Now, each year, I'll find an activity that will put me out of my comfort zone, teach me something new and be impossible to anticipate. I use my birthday as a day to appreciate the life I have and enrich it a notch more. I invite my friends with me to join in on the extracurricular-style birthday and together we celebrate life. It's easier to look forward to going forward when you spend sometime looking back and allow yourself to feel good about the great things you've accomplished since your last birthday. And there's nothing like kicking off a new year with a new experience — it ensures that the next year will be even better than the last. And with that mentality, it's hard to not look forward to getting older.
So if you're not a birthday person, I encourage you to consider becoming one. I urge you to make a list of the things you've never tried, be it as simple as eating a new cuisine, to going sky diving. And start using your birthdays as excuses to knock things off your bucket list. Because why look at a bucket list as something to do before you die, rather than something to enjoy while you're alive? These are some of the things I tried out on my most recent birthdays:
I've always wanted to go to clown school. My friends and I signed up for an early morning trapeze swing class. It was two hours long, and it was incredibly difficult, but it was so rewarding.
I've always wanted to do karaoke but I've always been too shy. With the help of my friends (and some liquid courage) I finally got on the microphone and belted out all those show tunes I was too scared to sing outside of my car.
Group Dance Class
I got my friends together, we had a few adult beverages and then took a hip hop dance class together. A teacher taught us a combination and we attempted to learn it. It was messy, it was fun, we couldn't stop laughing. We watched the silly videos we took and laughed about it for months.
Who knows what I'll do this year? But what I do know, is that I'm going to continue to make a big stinkin' deal over my birthday because we all deserve to take at lease one day out of the year to celebrate everything that we've accomplished and be excited to be alive. Here are some more bucket list birthday ideas for your consideration:
Sign up for an interactive escape maze game with your friends. In New York City, there's Escape the Room, a one-hour mystery puzzle game that forces you and your friends to think quick. Without a doubt, no matter where you participate in one of these games, it will be the strangest most wonderful day of the week.
Whether it's pizza school, a pasta master class or a baking class, you and your friends have a 100 percent chance of having fun and getting a good meal in. Plus, it's will be a great excuse for you all to get back together and give recreating your meals at home a try.
Check out your local stunt training school and sign up for a class with your friends. You'll learn some skills you might never need to use, but will have a ton of fun jumping around, taking leaps, and facing fears you didn't know you had. Plus, you'll feel like a Birthday Badass by the time you leave.