My mind often contradicts itself with my desire to fly by the seat of my pants in most situations and the very fact that I get paid to plan events every week. If you’ve known much of me in the past three years, you’re familiar with my “apply first-pray later” approach to the World Race, my eleven month stint around the world living out of a backpack, eating lots of rice, and being loved by people. I’m no stranger to escape plans and big-dream visions. In fact, if you’re due up for one, I can help you come up with something pretty stellar. I’m even alright at planning parties, especially of the celebrate-your-birth variety.
When it comes to my very own October 29th, I’m probably scoring somewhere around a D and we all know those grades don’t count toward your major, so though I may be a birthday advocate, I always manage to make the worst plans for my birthday while having the highest expectations known to man. You’d think it was my wedding day or the birth of my child instead of simply celebrating the moment I officially become “one year older.”
So, keeping in true fashion, I began frantically searching in late August for some grand way to celebrate my 25th, which, to this point, is probably my last important birthday. I’ve heard that nothing significant will happen after 25 until I hit 30, which is when my eggs will start dying, or 40, when I’ve reached the acceptable age to throw my life away and begin again in lieu of a “mid life crisis.”
After much heartache, list making, and friend-consulting, I pushpinned a fall festival complete with wine tasting & grape smashing. I made cute invitations via PaperlessPost (which, you should use if you need invitations, whether electronic or print), sent them to my sweet friends, and shut that book, content with where I’d landed..
Only to find myself second guessing that very decision by October 1. Why? Because some people don’t drink wine and maybe it would be a lot of work to walk around a vineyard for a day and two hours there in a car just didn’t seem quite as short a distance as it had a month before, plus we wouldn’t all fit in one and deciding who would ride where or with whom caused more anxiety than it should warrant, but this little brain of mine has trouble letting go of the little things.
As of October 23, I was sending “BETHDAY CANCELLED” emails across the office to Christine, convinced that I’d be more content to don my gray Berry College sweatpants that Saturday and watch endless episodes of Gilmore Girls or Dawson’s Creek (I still can’t get over how dramatic that show is – it really didn’t seem so outrageous when I was younger…proof that age changes perspective). After much ado and many emails between us, I was convinced Atlanta would be too crowded and Chattanooga too boring, so Romeward bound I would be on this Saturday-before-Bethday, planless and content.
Before I had a chance to warm up for tennis with Ashley that afternoon, I’d been told there would be a party Saturday night in my honor with a simple caveat: I wasn’t allowed to plan a minute of it. I’m not sure if I was more relieved, shocked, or just loopy from a full week of work, but I agreed… and asked at least twelve times before midnight if I could help with anything (and at least a thousand more before 7:30pm Saturday, to be sure).
Fast forward to Saturday – sitting on my hands knowing two of the sweetest friends are busy planning, cooking, and decorating for me. I felt terrible – selfish, a complete snob, incompetent, and just plain silly for making such a big deal out of my birthday.
I walked in to yellow polka dot balloons, bunting with “bethday” in precious navy & gold with a gingham backdrop and all the cute Photo Booth things, including Harry Potter glasses. The table was tucked into the corner and covered with sweet treats like pumpkin cheesecake and delicious cupcakes, all the dips you could want, and straws with handmade sparkly bows on them. There were circles of chairs and pillows on the floor and almost all of my bests were gathered in one room for the first time ever.
We had all the cider we could stand and even a little of the pumpkin ale and played Apples to Apples until we cried in the floor over Ariel’s “sea-cups” and how Helen Keller never made an appearance, but we were all waiting. The Royals may have lost the baseball game in the background, but we were in stitches on the floor.
To sit on the floor in a circle with my dearest of friends tore me up. Who even am I that these people love me this.much? Who even am I that they want to be around me all of the time and will go out of their way to throw me a party in less than 48 hours? It’s not because I guilted them or pressured them. They just did it. And if anything, I tried to get them to let me help or to just not do it because I felt like too much. I felt like a hassle and a brat. But it wasn’t a burden and it wasn’t terrible and they didn’t hate me for it. They loved me big and late even into the night and you know what? It didn’t stop there.
Four days later, my phone exploded with phone calls, text messages, and notifications from every social circle with notes and photos (as wild and outrageous as they were) and well wishes because circles are like ripples and they just keep growing. I was wished happy birthday in three different languages and from a multitude of countries, states, and homes. I was celebrated in snail-mailed letters and breakfast, with sunflowers and homemade Reese’s, and over endless salad and breadsticks with parking lot presents and an assorted circle of friends that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
I like to pretend that I can live without affirmation and notes and hugs for all the days except October 29th, but really, I need that love all the time. My birthday is just the only day it feels socially acceptable to be needy.
I also like to pretend that my birthday is all about me – that I enjoy being the center of attention, the one who commands a room, and the reason for celebration. In reality, my birthday is the most overwhelming day of my year because I realize that I get to walk this wild wonderful world with some of the most gifted, talented, beautiful, giving, gracious, wild-extravagant-love people that have ever taken a deep breath and squinted in the sunlight. I’ve been invited into hearts that love big with the tough love and the slow-sun-smile love, the hearts with the big dreams and the stubbornness behind them to cause earthquakes and change lives. I feel like I have backstage passes to the coolest band around because I get to be friends with these people.
So here I am, found in the aftermath of gift-giving, too many sweets, and birthday cards to cherish for another year, overwhelmed and unable to hold back tears that are just the overflow of a heart well-loved. If I could count each moment, I would waste away, pen to page, and still not count them all.