I recently had a birthday—like just a few days ago—and it was pretty great (definitely my best birthday in my 30s so far, of course it only has one other to compare to). Truth be told, I’m actually not that into my birthday. Not because I’m scared of getting older or like to hide my age. But mostly because over the years, as a child and an adult, I’ve had some pretty crummy party experiences: The sleepover in which two girls snuck into my bedroom in the middle of the night and trashed it; the year when I took friends to a movie for my birthday and half my guests ditched out to sneak into Titanic and I had to get the theater staff to retrieve them later; my 20th birthday in which I got in a screaming fight with my mother; the house party in which everyone who showed up had no idea who I was or that they were at my birthday party; and my 30th, which got snowed out among other things—just to name a few examples. Most of the time as an adult, I try to keep my birthday super simple… or I just kind of skip it all together.
This year, I felt inspired to do something I’ve never done before as an adult—I hosted a full-on birthday party at my house. I got decorations (a fancy piñata and balloons); I set a theme; I created a cocktail; made cake and munchies; and I hoped it would surpass the parties I attempted to host as a kid. To my surprise and delight, my birthday turned out just as I wanted. The people I wanted to spend it with showed up, the decorations look splendid, and the cake was delicious (plus I had an amazing joint birthday dinner the night before with a dear friend that was absolutely lovely). There was no fighting, no ice storms, and no one sneaking off to other parts of the house to trash it behind my back. For me, this is one of the reasons why I love getting older: my friends circle might be smaller than it was younger, but the people who are in it are some of my favorite people in the world, and that makes all the difference. I’ve learned how to make better decisions and surround myself with better people.
For me, getting older has been a balance between coping with massive disappointments and enjoying fantastic adventures. It isn’t at all like I imagined it would be when I was a kid. (I don’t remember the exact specifics outside of picturing a rose-colored future with a fairly traditional life path: marriage, career, etc. only I was totally going to marry and live outside of the US and travel tons!) My 20s were a rollercoaster of disappointments. My 30s, though, are full of opportunities to turn those disappointments into important life lessons. Like, “it’s okay if you don’t know exactly what you want to do in life,” and “sometimes, something you think you want isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and that’s okay because now you can make room for something even better,” and “your attitude can make or break a situation,” and probably my most important lesson learned, “you are enough.”
Some of the most difficult things I’ve gone through have ended up leading to some of the best things I’ve experienced.
So now that I’ve turn another year older, I’m not going to let my age make me feel old, lie about being in my 30s, wish to still be in my 20s, or stress about all the life goals I’m a little behind in (such as saving for my retirement—I really need to be more on top of that!) I’m going to be proud about all the really good things I’ve done so far, all the places I’ve traveled, all the knowledge I’ve gain from some 31-year’s of life experiences, and how all those things I thought I wanted in my 20s that didn’t really pan out helped me figure out who I am. Oh! and I’m going to wear more sunscreen, cause let’s be honest—if there’s one lesson everyone should learn by their 30s, it’s the importance of SPF.
GRETCHEN IS A WRITER-BASED IN PORTLAND, ORE. SHE GOT HER START AS A JOURNALIST WORKING ON THE SUSTAINABLE FASHION AND RESTAURANT BEAT BEFORE MOVING INTO COPYWRITING AND ADVERTISING WORK. SHE CURRENTLY BLOGS AND WORKS AS A FREELANCE WRITER.