Grown-Up Birthdays Can Be Weird

Like every kid, when I was younger I couldn’t wait to be a grown-up. I wanted to make my own bed time, be able to eat dessert any time I wanted, have cable, make money, be able to drive, etc. It seemed pretty amazing.

Of course, lots of the shine wore off once I actually entered adulthood. It turns out, sleep is amazing, and I wish someone would tuck me in every night at 8 p.m. Cable is expensive and overrated (so we cut the cord a few years ago), and there never seems to be enough money. (The dessert any time thing, though, is actually a pretty decent perk, I must say.)

Sadly, for me, another thing that lost its luster once I grew up a bit was birthdays. As a child, the weeks leading up to my birthday were filled with anticipation and activity. Making my gift list, planning my birthday party, and deciding what kind of cake I wanted my mom to bake for me kept little Anna pretty darn busy — and super happy. With a mid-August birthday, the day fell over the summer, and was perfect for pool parties and sleepovers.

These days, I feel like my birthdays sneak up on me. Since I’m not in school any more, I’m usually at work on my birthday (like this year, when it fell on a MONDAY), and as opposed to brimming with promise and joy, birthdays tend to feel pretty blah nowadays. (I’m guessing I’m not the only one who suffers from this annual affliction. Bueller?) It’s not the getting older part that bums me out (although I’m assuming that will change with future birthdays), but more the forced reflection on my life that, for some reason, bends toward the negative on my “special day.” (This isn’t always true. For example, my Double Quinceañera celebration for my 30th birthday two years ago was pretty epic, and I didn’t experience the same blah feelings other grown-up birthdays have brought with them. Maybe because that birthday was so similar to my birthdays as a kid, what with the preparation and anticipation and all.)

This year, though, I woke up feeling SO off. Kevin was out of town, which didn’t help things, but I’m guessing I would have felt down regardless. Soon the negativity kicked in, and before I knew it I was heading down a full-on rabbit hole. EVERYTHING was wrong, even though I knew that wasn’t the case. I haven’t felt this down since long before Maggie was born. (Ready for some irrationality?)

I felt boring. Like everything was small and silly. Like I needed to accomplish something BIGGER — something more meaningful — in my life (and why in the world hadn’t I done that yet?). Simultaneously, I was hung up on decidedly silly things, like the fact that my hair wasn’t quite right and the outfit I wanted to wear was in the dirty clothes bin and that I felt chubby (always a default when I’m feeling off). Everything was terrible, and I wanted to cry. While all this was happening, the reasonable part of my brain was trying to convince the edge-of-the-cliff side that it was being ridiculous. That my life is full of purpose and love, and that my hair looked just fine. (That rational side of my brain was losing in a big way.)

I used to grapple with feelings like this far more often, and I’m thankful those days are few and far between now. (It’s taken a good amount of work on my part to get here.) Still, it’s not fun to have these emotions flare up, no matter how infrequent. The good news is, I’ve gotten better at seeing them coming and at knowing how to combat them.

Having to get up and get Maggie ready that morning was a good first step. Having to go to work (where I was not only distracted by, well, work, but also celebrated by my amazing co-workers, complete with cake), helped me snap out of it a little more. I was able to take a Pure Barre class over lunch, and exercise ALWAYS helps me when I’m in the dumps. Getting sweet texts and Facebook shout-outs throughout the day made me smile. And then I taught Pure Barre that evening, which always forces me to pump up the positivity.

By the time I went to bed, I was feeling okay. I was definitely no longer in the depths of despair like I had far-too-dramatically been that morning. I’d say I was back to feeling about 80% like myself. Birthdays, man. Who knew they could be so difficult? My younger self would be very disappointed.

Growing up isn’t always all it cracked up to be, is it? 

Here’s hoping the rest of my 32nd year goes better than the first day did! (I feel confident it will. And then I’ll have my 33rd birthday to deal with…)

3 thoughts on “Grown-Up Birthdays Can Be Weird

  1. You are not alone. I can relate. I always take my birthday off work if it falls in the week. Even though I like my job, I still don’t want my birthday to blend in with all the other days. Making it special (even if I burn a PTO day without traveling) even in that small way seems to help. It takes the pressure off. This year, Ryan took a half day and met me for lunch and then we ran errands. It was still nice just to be stopped while the rest of the world continued on its regular schedule. OH! And you had a baby that day!

    Always a good reminder: you are not your feelings. They are fleeting. Just here for a visit. Acknowledge them, then tell them to shoo.


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