Tuesday, February 12, 2013


It’s my birthday again. It comes right on the heels of the major holidays, in the midst of those holidays used for getting lucky (you know that’s true, I mean Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day? Hello.) My birthday usually gets lumped with Valentine’s Day because of the proximity. I’m just glad I wasn’t born at the end of December because then I’d get the dreaded Christmas/Birthday present combo. People born in a span of time devoid of holidays escape the combo present curse completely.

I share a birthday with Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin and, this year at least, Fat Tuesday. Apparently, Joe DiMaggio’s brother was born on Feb. 12 too, who knew.

Since my last birthday I have quit a job, started a new one, moved states, ended three relationships and started two (that sounds like a lot but one of them was this weird on and off bad thing so it wasn’t multiple people. Right now if a psychiatrist asked me to say something that reminds me of that relationship I’d say – hanging chad), got my heart broken, had multiple visitors, attended a wedding, was asked to speak in a wedding and be a maid of honor, made new friends, made new enemies, learned to line dance, started playing soccer and acting again, swam in the ocean at night, saw manatees for the first time and glowing phytoplankton. There’s more, there’s a lot more actually. When I was in college the years between birthdays didn’t seem much different. Everything was working up to your 21st birthday but beyond that it was a blur of school work, parties and a smattering of activities done sober. You learned more, maybe if you were lucky you learned enough to make changes that would benefit your life. If not, like most of us, things went on the same way. Maybe you learned to eat before drinking, that was an important one. New faces came and went, old ones stuck around or maybe we lost them somehow.

The only birthday in high school that stands out is my 18th. The only one I was really looking forward to was my 16th, but I don’t remember anything really exciting happening except that I could say I was 16 (maybe that came from the Sound of Music, I don’t really know.) My parents threw me a party for my 18th with my friends, all of which didn’t drink (we weren’t hardcore it just wasn’t on our radar, we could act like idiots on our own, no alcohol needed.) We danced like mad to the DJ that was a family friend and eventually it was so hot we had to stick our heads out the window to cool off. It was freezing outside being February in Kansas, which is usually dreary, and full of shallow snow that turns the color of mud as soon as it hits the ground. It isn’t the pretty pure white snow you see in December. I always remember there being slush on the ground around my birthdays when I was in elementary school. Sloshing through the dirty wetness to get to a birthday party where we painted plaster molds to hang on the wall, or painted vases that would eventually be glazed, there was one where we dressed in Victorian dresses and played Victorian games where you won fancy soap as a prize. Those were the days.

The only birthday I remember in college was my 21st. If the only reason to join a sorority was for your 21st, that would have made it worth it for me. We met at the Heidelberg, to this day my favorite place to go in Columbia, Mo. Everyone started 21st birthdays there, everyone could eat, drink or not drink if you were underage. I had a boa, my sisters made me a paddle and shot book (think scrap book but for the shots you are taking that night), ALL of my friends came to at least take a shot with me or just say “hi.” I took 21 shots that night with my friends timing me so I didn’t take too many too close together, I had a rule to not take any shots with multiple kinds of straight liquor (you know, four horsemen, three wise men, whatever.) I ate and drank a ton of water and I survived, no throwing up and I remember everything, I didn’t even get kicked out of a bar, which is a common occurrence on a 21st birthday. I didn’t have to plan a thing and it was perfect. The Winter Olympics’ opening ceremony was on TV that night, but I don’t remember even being interested. I just remember trying to talk to all my friends and sisters that were there, letting them buy me shots called Scooby snacks or chocolate cake. My friend Bill had the tradition of buying a blowjob shot for everyone on their 21st. He had made me a Rocky Horror themed shot book page and I remember thinking I was so lucky to have friends around me that knew me so well and being so grateful they had taken the time to plan something for me.

Last year, I spent the eve of my birthday in a hotel room in Virginia Beach with my then-boyfriend. He was on a base there and I flew in for the weekend. We didn’t go to an expensive dinner; he hadn’t planned anything although the hotel was nice. We ended up walking to a 7-Eleven as snow fell; I wasn’t wearing enough clothing by far because I had come from Alabama where I had worn a tank top and jeans onto the plane.  We picked up a pint of ice cream, wine and powdered donuts for the morning. That night we watched Tangled in the hotel room. I ate most of the ice cream and we didn’t finish the wine. I flew out the next day, on my birthday, but I don’t remember anything interesting about that day except that he told me Whitney Houston had died in the morning. I don’t remember what I did when I got back to Montgomery, I know that my apartment was like a refrigerator and I couldn’t find my fish (turns out he had frozen to death over the weekend since I had turned off the heat to save money. I know I’m terrible, but when I left I was wearing a tank top, how was I supposed to know a cold front was going to come through?)

And here I am this year. I’ve been alive for 24 years. Last night, instead of getting wine from a gas station, I made a big meal of jumbalaya, fried pickles and beignets to celebrate Fat Tuesday, listened to country, painted my nails and caught up on my programs. I spent the night alone. Today, instead of taking 24 shots I start rehearsal for a community theater production. My Facebook wall has been blowing up all day with kind words, some very kind and unexpected. It’s unusual for me to comment back to every message, but I appreciate each birthday wish so much I figured I’d show it this year, it doesn’t take much of my time. My friends at work decorated my corner with purple and green streamers (mardi gras, y’all) there are beads all over my desk and my boss got me a tiramisu cake with little peanut butter cakes. She said she thought I needed dainty things for my birthday.

Look how dorky I look. Twenty-four years old and I am just as gawky as ever, the tiramisu is the star of this picture. 

I know I must have wondered on the plane from Virginia where I would be in exactly a year. I know I hadn't considered a desk covered in mardi gras beads. Now, I wonder where I’ll be in a year from now. I guess, judging from this year, I could be anywhere, with anyone, doing anything. And although my year is streaked with depression, low self-esteem and anxiety (and any other problems you can think of associated with major change and some outrageous personal growing pains), I can’t imagine where else I would be right now. I’m afraid to imagine where I might be next year. I can’t imagine another year quite as exhausting as this one, but bring it on. I’m ready for it this time.

I was originally going to make this a post about what I wanted for my birthday, but that was really boring. So... money? Wait, wait, drinks, that’s it, just buy me a drink when we’re out.