It’s always a little bit awkward to tell people it’s your birthday. That’s because their reaction to hearing such a thing (if they didn’t already know it) is either pity or guilt. I don’t want strangers to feel sorry that I don’t have any one to celebrate with me. I also don’t want friends to feel guilty that they didn’t know.
That’s a great thing about Facebook, right? You don’t have to shout your birthday from the mountaintops. It does it for you. Then you get birthday messages from the most random set of people you could have imagined. It’s wonderful.
Guess what? I’m 32 today.
32 years feels like a really legitimate age. Don’t get me wrong, it’s no 34 (shout out to Dick Diver and his fanboy Chris Hohorst here). I love being a real grown up. When I was in my twenties I was often mistaken for a high school student. Seriously. I was twenty-eight and pregnant doing ministry at a high school and always felt like the pregnant teen at the football game. But, turning 30 did wonders for my adult face. Maybe it was a couple of eye wrinkles or losing the round cheeks. Maybe it was a shift in how I carried myself. But I love it. I love being 30-something and embracing my mom-ness.
So, I’m 32. It was nine years ago when I first celebrated a birthday alone in Syracuse, one week into my new life there as a graduate student. I don’t even remember that birthday. Not one memory. I remember a lot of other birthdays, though, especially the good ones: my 20th when my college roommates surprised me with an apartment full of friends who loved me, my 30th when my husband gave me a “goodbye Philadelphia” weekend, where we stayed in a hotel and ate really wonderful food, my 31st when August and I spent the afternoon making birthday cupcakes with sprinkles (and I realized that I had a little boy, not a baby).
All weekend I kept thinking, what profound thing should I write about my birthday? How has my life changed since I turned 31, 365 days ago?
I had a baby. My toddler became an actual scrawny-legged kid. I moved, again. I learned a lot about being thankful. I learned a lot about hospitality. I learned (or at least contemplated) a lot about stability.
I love birthdays. I think that’s because I believe in touchstones. I believe in celebrations—moments to mark your life, take stock, remember. I love birthdays because I believe every life should be celebrated. I love birthdays because my friend Molly taught me the value of birthday breakfasts in bed and I believe fully in that tradition. I love birthdays because they can always feel just as magical as they did when you were a kid—if you allow them to, if you don’t dismiss their significance. I love birthdays because I believe aging is something special: I’m proud to have made it this far. I hope I’m just as proud when the number is in the 50s or 60s. I want to know that I’ve worked hard for every wrinkle, every bit of wisdom time has offered.
So, this is my birthday post. Hope it didn’t make you feel pity and/or guilt.