In February, one of my stressors was deciding how I wanted to celebrate my 30th birthday. I was deciding between a get together at a brewery nearby or at a park – both of which included McDonalds. That train of thought feels so long ago even though it was just a little over a month. As for what occupies my mind on a daily basis now, that feels so minuscule and distant.
The date was picked and the invites were out, but the day I landed back in San Francisco from Thailand it took me less than 24 hours to cancel. I love gathering all of my favorite people together, but a group from all different circles and sharing food didn’t seem like the safest decision. With everything going on and the number of cases rising, I personally didn’t feel good about hosting a celebration.
Instead, I settled for a birthday in quarantine (like we had a choice!) It was a work day like any other, but I felt the love from my network from all over. Coworkers delivered a Panda Express lunch to my doorstep. My two girlfriends ordered McDonalds for dinner and we ate it over a virtual hangout. To my surprise the day felt excessive!
It reminded me of a Berenstain Bears book I read when I was little called, “Too Much Birthday.” I’ve always loved my birthday celebrations, but there are some memories of my previous birthdays that I have buried deep. I’m reminded of the birthdays where I end up in tears. And it wasn’t just me – growing up, friends of mine in elementary school also ended up in tears. I read a [post] recently from The Cut that sums this up perfectly.
This isn’t an emotion that’s often spoken about, so into my adult life, I still describe the feeling as having “too much birthday.” It’s the sensation of feeling so much joy at once that you almost feel lonely, or like you can’t really enjoy the happiness surrounding you.
This year’s “too much birthday” symbolism came in a couple ways. The physical was a nasty stomach ache from all the fast food. Emotionally, it was how annoyed I felt when asked “how I was celebrating that day.” This would have been a perfectly normal question any other time. However, that frustration was met with my internal response of “don’t you know what I’m doing? Staying inside of course!” At the end of the day, I’m lucky to have polite friends who will ask even if it’s merely to extend the conversation beyond “happy birthday.” Mentally, I was equal parts scattered and lonely.
One thing is for certain. It’s a birthday that I won’t ever forget – one in isolation, but still celebrated despite distance.