My birthday last year compared to this year’s could not have been more different, blame it on quarantine, a relationship ending, graduating from college, finding out I was an Aries, not a Pisces, or an international pandemic, 2020 was not set up to be a very good birthday given the circumstances.
When I turned twenty-one, I made the big decision to propose to my ex and stage a secret photoshoot to capture the proposal. The party was fun but awkward, I was emotionally exhausted, and it rained; but overall it was an incredible day and one of my best birthdays-I adopted my cat 9 days later, so the month of March will always be a special time for me because of celebrating my cat’s birthday, my birthday and my cat’s adoption day all in the same month.
And this year, on March 20th, I turned 22. In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic (Heyo, Aries family-how we doing?), during self-isolation. I’ve been limiting my social interactions since March 11th, with the exception of one close-friends dinner so by the time my birthday week rolled around, I couldn’t even process that it was here. I am absolutely a “celebrate me all month” sort of birthday person, yet this year I couldn’t even process that my birthday was already here given everything else going on.
On Monday the 16th I was advised to work from home for the foreseeable future, and every day after that, the state of Wisconsin released more and more strict restrictions on how many people can gather, the types of businesses that can remain open, the university remaining closed for the rest of the semester, all while the number of cases grew exponentially. (We had 3 confirmed cases on Wednesday, March 11th and by the next Thursday we had more than 70+ cases. To date, we are now in the triple digits).
Needless to say, I did not have my usual pre-game for my birthday week. I was feeling stressed, tired, scared and very unsure about what was going to happen on the day-to-day. By Monday, four days before my birthday, all my plans for the next month had been canceled, or I had canceled and decided not to go. March was supposed to be chock full of travel and conferences and suddenly every weekend was free. It was absolutely a shock to my system, a relief to be able to rest, but overwhelming because so many people were still pressed to continue with their plans figuring they would “be fine”.
Growing up I was not only an excellent introvert but homeschooled as well. The idea of spending my birthday alone seemed to make other people more upset for me. I had taken some matters into my own hands to celebrate me over the weekend, but those plans quickly changed. For example, the night before my birthday I had planned to volunteer with some dogs as a start to my birthday weekend but ended up not going in order to adhere to the 10 or less gatherings executive order that was passed, I had hoped to spend the day with a friend, out plant shopping, but by then businesses had closed and I had decided I needed to stay in.
I wasn’t entirely sure how to combat the birthday blues while still taking the time to celebrate my birthday and protect my community.
The first thing I did was decide what I could use for my birthday cake. I happened to have a pint of pistachio gelato, and two “22” candles, and that became my birthday cake. I then decided I wanted to have some wine and I made a quick pit stop to my local grocery store and was in and out of the liquor section in 15 minutes. Then I figured out when I would call my mom and sisters since they weren’t in school.
And then, contrary to my chaotic Aries energy, I channeled my Virgo siblings, made a schedule and asked friends to sign up, nicely. The post actually said, “Now’s the time for you to figure out when you’re going to call me for my birthday!” and then I screenshotted my google calendar for the day. Dynamic and exciting, that’s me.
At this point, there are probably some folx in the crowd asking, “Why not just reschedule for a different day when shit has calmed down?” And this is a great point! If you’re bummed beyond belief at not being able to see any people, you could totally pick a new day! But also, have you seen how far out things are being canceled? You may need to celebrate double on your next birthday at the rate this thing is going…just saying.
My day was then full of surprises and love. I was buzzed awake by the delivery of a bright pink flowering plant, and I ordered a latte and cheesy breakfast bagel from a local coffee shop. I called my grandparents, and then two of my friends for 3 hours straight back-to-back. One of them told me about their art, and the other two made me a cookie and sang happy birthday over video chat.
I took a break in the afternoon and went for a walk around my neighborhood and ordered Mexican food for dinner. Another friend called and we talked about mortgages and the cute little duplexes I scoped out on my walk. Suddenly it was 7pm and time to call my mom, and then the day was over. I watched a weird foreign film, downloaded a plant care game, and posted my birthday pictures from my photoshoot that afternoon in the warm sun. It really, truly, went that fast. I asked my friends to catch me up on their life, to tell me the hot gossip; we talked about how we’re all feeling right now, and told funny stories.
I should also point out that because I wasn’t able to go plant shopping I got wine drunk the night before my birthday and ordered a bunch of plants from different plant groups on facebook-very excited to see the fruits of my labor, cha-ching.
My birthday was different this year, but not bad. Just different. I’ve experienced disappointment in people not showing up, in friends being flakey, and ultimately celebrating my birthday in a puddle of sadness in years past-so to have the opportunity to have my friends come to me in a low-pressure scenario really worked well. I joked to one of my friends on the phone earlier that maybe this will be my strategy in future years to come, besides being able to go shopping or eating out for dinner-having a plan and low expectations worked out really well for me.
I know this isn’t everyone’s ideal experience, but in the midst of an international lockdown, we’re truly making the best of what we can. I’d encourage anyone worried about celebrating their birthday to ask for what they need. If you want your friend to plan a surprise day or a big zoom birthday party, ask! And maybe even offer to help coordinate things. Take a note from the dating scene and send a bottle of wine and take-out to your friend for their birthday. Commission an online portrait, celebrate them the way they want to be celebrated and make plans to do a big birthday bash when it’s safe to do so.
I’m starting a petition to have one international birthday party for everyone who had to celebrate their birthday in self-isolation/quarantine during the pandemic, I’m going to go ahead and set a tentative date for next august, but let me know if you’ve got other suggestions.
Happy birthday to me! If you’re celebrating your birthday right now or coming up soon, let me know how you’re choosing to make it a special day, regardless of needing to stay home.