the vulnerability of celebrating myself

My birthday is today (eeek!). I’m turning twenty-six, and I don’t know what to think of it. When I was little and playing house, I would always pretend to be sixteen. It was as if I couldn’t possibly fathom a more grown-up age than that. Now I’m sixteen plus ten years. I’m unsure what to do with that information, but I think I like it.

In other news, I’m realizing that it’s hard for me to celebrate myself. Not that I don’t do it every year. Every year, I’m excited when it’s April, and every year, I get a little more comfortable being okay with that excitement.


There’s so very much vulnerability in openly celebrating myself, you see. There’s the worry that others won’t join in, and I’ll just be standing there, celebrating myself, alone. (Though actually, when I put it like that, it doesn’t sound so bad.)

There’s the discomfort of being seen, and the navigation of finding ways to celebrate that don’t say, “Look at me!“, if being looked at isn’t exactly what I want. Some of us want to celebrate, but we don’t want the whole restaurant staring at us. You know?

There’s the bit about opening myself up to excitement, which also opens me up to the possibility (however slim or not-slim) that things will go terribly awry.

And then there’s the part about inviting others to join in. That’s the scariest part, to me. If I throw a party (or a celebration, whichever word you choose), there’s the terrifying chance that no one will come. Which really just has to do with people’s schedules, but it gives me the opportunity to take it all terribly personally and think that nobody likes me, as I’m wont to do.

So just like everything else in my life lately, celebrating my birthday is another chance to practice being myself, and liking myself. Tonight I’ll be writing, celebratorily (yes I did just make up that word; you can do that on your birthday), in the presence of my fellow Hybrid Writers. I’ll probably play some games (like Scrabble, which Mary already beat me at on Monday). And I may even break out my ever-so-sumptuous cheesecake recipe. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

. . .

Comment Love: I’m feeling really vulnerable about this, so just know that. I’d love happy birthdays and for you to join the celebration. I’d also love to hear about your own experiences with celebrating yourself.

15 Responses to the vulnerability of celebrating myself

  1. Erin April 13, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!! today (the 13th) is my own birthday. but i’ve been celebrating for a month or so.

    I agree that there is a lot of vulnerability in celebrating yourself – but I think it has to do with the fact that any naked display of joy, appreciation, excitement or anticipation is vulnerable. but i’ve learned that letting myself feel those things freely and wildly *is* the present of birthday month. Bathing my senses in delight. April is a great month for that because everything else is so fresh and giddy with it’s own existence so i’m just joining in and inspiration is everywhere.

    Mostly, my method is to be keenly alert for any wonderful, beautiful, enjoyable, smile-inducing thing that happens in the month peripheral to my birthday and exclaim it the result of birthday magic. Especially if those things are happening to other people. because, i’ve found – when you are genuinely celebrating yourself, it’s pretty hard for that to not spill out into celebrating other people.

    Also, I practice enjoying attention and gifts and offerings deeply. I make more eye-contact, say thank you a little slower and smile more personally. you can do all those things shyly or exuberantly or whatever comes naturally – celebrating, to me, is about the openness and unrestrainedness of the delight with which you pay attention – not the energy you convey it with.

    Today, I’m starting out on my own. My husband lives far away, so I spent last week celebrating with him, and I live on a relaxed island and don’t particularly enjoy parties. but, not *really* alone because there was the most glorious sunshine of all this morning – penetrating into my house more deeply than any sunny morning has so far. and there’s all my facebook birthday love.

    anyway, all of this long birthday missive to say – I’m celebrating you, too. because my birthday is my favorite holiday of the year – which extends to loving everyone else’s birthday a lot, too.

    I hope you are falling-over intoxicated with the wonder of your awesomeness!


  2. Monica April 13, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

    I just want to hug you! Celebrate you and everything you are today and everyday. Happy Birthday Kylie!

  3. claire April 13, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

    Happy Birthday, Kylie!!! I hope your day is molto groovy!

    Birthday celebrations can be a tough bag. Sometimes it’s the gifts from the people closest to you that point out so clearly how little they know you. Other times it’s others’ expectations of how you should celebrate that throw things off. The year I turned 30, I was in a new city and knew few people. For dinner, I just wanted something mellow with the two people I knew best. They felt like it should be bigger and offered to invite a couple of their friends that I’d met before. Overhearing one conversation it was clear he didn’t even remember me and neither ended up showing up. All this on my birthday. The dinner ended up being what I’d originally wanted though with a sort of disappointing cast over it.

    The various shortfalls of my very simple plans were made more glaring since 2 months earlier we’d all been to an epic surprise weekend 30th bday bash up by the Russian River for a mutual friend. (I didn’t/don’t have anyone in my life who’d go to that much trouble and expense for my birthday.) I do my best not to get hung up in comparisons, but it was hard that year because everyone around me kept talking about week long celebrations and the like for their 30ths. Sigh.

    Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed most of the day, it just wasn’t epic. Nowadays I keep it very chill. I suppose the fears you mention are somewhere in that mix.

    But enough of those depressing ramblings. I hope your day is fantastic and filled with things *you* love to do and love to eat!

  4. Adriana April 13, 2011 at 3:55 pm #

    Happy birthday to the most wonderful woman in the whole wide world! It’s been such a pleasure to celebrate your last, um, 13 birthdays with you?

    I totally hear you on the birthday-vulnerability. When I was young, I would get upset if my family didn’t make a big enough deal of my birthday, but I’d always feel lonely and awkward if they had a big party for me. It’s taken many years (and more than one uncomfortable birthday), but I’m finally 100% happy spending the day with a few of my favorite people.

    Sending you so much birthday love from Chicago!

  5. Lynn April 13, 2011 at 6:00 pm #

    Happy Birthday, Ms. Kylie!

    I’ve done the birthday thing more frequently than you, so I am going to promise you that the occasional room full of staring strangers lasts only a few minutes. What a small price to pay for birthday attention and celebrating yourself! And you know, awry can sometimes bring amazing things too — so be the Birthday Girl, maybe even in all caps if that’s how you want it, and let any imperfections in the day be what is rendered unto Caesar.

  6. Lauren April 13, 2011 at 10:31 pm #

    Happy Happy Birthday Kylie!! I hope you’re celebrating the heck out of your beautiful, lovely self. So glad to have gotten to know you over the past few months :).

    And I hope you made that cheesecake!

  7. Kylie April 14, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    Erin: Happy birthday to YOU! I simply LOVE your idea of claiming all magic and wonderfulness as part of the Birthday Month. Today’s NYC sunshine? Totally in celebration of our birthdays. I also love the ideas of the gifts of eye contact and attention. I think gifts like those might be the very best ones you can give and enjoy.

    Monica: Well, you’re in luck! You can hug me tonight at the crafty thingy. Whee!

    Claire: Aw, sweetie pie! It’s funny how, even if we’re small-celebration sorts of people, those expectations of big-ness can get us down. Wishing you dear friends in cities new and old for in the birthdays to come.

    Adriana: Thank you, my darling. I’m so lucky to have spent many of my own birthdays AND yours in your company. It’s truly the best way to celebrate. I’ll never forget last year, when we got to spend both our birthdays together. True birthday magic.

    Lynn: Thank you for your wise words, Lynn. I took them to heart, and I’ve been fully celebrating and will continue to do so the rest of the month.

    Lauren: Thank you, sweetie. I’m so glad to know you, too. And yes, the cheesecake is totally happening.

  8. Char April 14, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    I’m new to your blog (and your FB page) but so much of what you’ve written resonates, and in this post, no less.

    When I was very young (some .. ahem .. decades ago) I would sit by the window on Dec 5 and look at the night sky and ask for snow! I loved (and still love) watching the world being sprinkled by the beautiful white sparkles of snow. And when I woke up on Dec 6, to find that it was indeed a winter wonderland, I knew that it was all just for ME! Believe it or not, I still feel that way.

    My birthday is something I celebrate, and revel in, because it really is MY day! (Irrelevant is the fact that there are untold others who share it .. lol.) Now, as I rapidly approach my 6th decade, I’m learning to carry that feeling, and celebration, forward into each day of my life. You see it is MY life and while it may not be of particular note to anyone else, it has to be to me.

    Note: some days my intent outweighs my abilities but I’m determined to keep trying

  9. Jonathan Manor April 14, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

    Happy birthday!

  10. Kathleen Avins April 15, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

    I hope you had a fabulous, totally celebratoriterrial (making up a word in solidarity!) birthday, Kylie!

    Okay, I just proofread my own comment, taking care to ensure that I spelled celebratoriterrial correctly. I think I’d better go have a little lie down now. :)

  11. christa April 16, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

    I celebrate you, Kylie, in all your wonderfulness… despite the fact, or maybe cause of it, that I am old enough to be your mother. Maybe both.

    Have a grand time celebrating, no matter how you do it, and know every day that you are a gift to the world.



  12. Eileen April 17, 2011 at 11:30 am #

    Kylie – I celebrate you but can’t believe you are 26! How did that happen?!!! My son Matt will turn 30 this year. How can I still be 29 when I have a 30 year old. LOL Happy, happy year ahead to you. You deserve all the goodness you will get.

  13. Kylie April 19, 2011 at 7:37 am #

    Char: Well, welcome! I’m so glad you’re here. That snow was definitely all for you. I, personally, do that any time there’s even the slightest chance of snow. I just love it. Here is something I also love: “You see it is MY life and while it may not be of particular note to anyone else, it has to be to me.”

    Jonathan: Thank you!

    Kathleen: Word-making-up solidarity! Yeah! And thank you.

    Christa: Thank you, darling. You are so very sweet and wonderful. I feel honored to have you here.

    Eileen: It sounds like you might need to have a discussion with Matt about his aging. You might need to lay down the law and just let him know he’s going to have to knock it off. ;o)

  14. Kimberly July 27, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    Hi, I just found your blog through a post on Facebook by Christine Arylo recommending your blog as a defense mechanism for depression. I was surprised to come across this particular entry. I already feel like we have a lot in common but now we share a birthday as well. I give you kudos for being so open and brave in talking unabashedly about thing that people tend to try to shush (sp?) up… Thank you for that. Thank you for this blog. I am a sufferer of chronic depression myself and this is one of those things I get to add to my gratitude journal. I also have a hard time celebrating my birthday (I don’t like the attention – a side effect of those humiliating times my mom made people in a restaurant sing when I was growing up?) but you’re right it is a day to celebrate yourself and to be yourself. Thank you for that as well. Thank you for being you and for being here. YOU ROCK!

  15. Kylie July 27, 2011 at 3:55 pm #

    Kimberly: You’re my birthday twin! Exciting! Thank YOU for being here, and for sharing some of your struggles. I know it’s not easy.

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