By Monica Busch
In my junior year of high school, a fellow Virgo friend and I threw ourselves a full-on half-birthday party. We invited all of our friends to her house, we served cake and — a product of the times — played a rousing game of manhunt in the woods bordering her family’s cul-de-sac. Our (half-dozen?) guests thought we were nonsensical, to be sure, but beyond a laugh at school the week before, no one really questioned an excuse to get together and more or less just be the silly teenagers we very much, in fact, were.
My half-birthday is coming up again next week, and, the nostalgia-infused side of me is once again remembering with great admiration the 17-year-old version of myself that was so headstrong she didn’t question for a moment the desire to throw herself a birthday party six months after and before her actual-actual birthday came around. She wasn’t so insecure as to wonder whether anyone would come, and certainly didn’t bat an eye at potential becoming the butt of a joke. She wanted to celebrate a half-turn around the sun and so, by jove, she did.
I am just a celebration sort of person. I love holidays. I always have. I also love having an excuse to use the adjective celebratory before a noun. Celebratory pizza night. Celebratory cake. Celebratory champagne. (Maybe I just like food?)
My Facebook memories are replete with old statuses where I lament the naysayers who complain about Christmas, Valentine’s Day, their own birthdays, et cetera. I must confess that, as much as it is my job to try and understand the other sides of things, I don’t understand their positions and, yes, I’ll say it — I think they are Debbie downer contrarian killjoys.
I understand, to be sure, that Christmas is commercialized and that Valentine’s Day puts a lot of people under undue stress as it relates to dinner reservations and purchasing flowers. I understand that feeling like you have to spend time with family you don’t even like and that shelling out the funds for gifts that people don’t even want can both be crippling-anxiety-inducing endeavors. I’m not willfully ignorant. Not here, anyway.
But what doesn’t make any sense to me is being the kind of person who takes the sum of holiday-induced stress and determines that the entire endeavor is a wash and should be thrown out with the bathwater. And this leads me back to half-birthdays because, more so than just run-of-the-mill major holidays, I am also an ardent supporter of celebrating the mundane. (Recall the aforementioned pizza night.)
In some ways, perhaps, I am just hopelessly, inconsolably extra. That may be true. But I aspire to, on my mentally-healthier days, celebrate my own existence with the fervor of a mommy-blogger posting about the 17 months her third child has been alive. (Although perhaps not always as publicly and certainly not in front of 156k followers. I am not a heathen: we must have boundaries.)
Anyway, I aim to practice this in my daily life by asking myself a simple question: what can I do to make this day/weekend feel just a little bit like a party?
In grad school, I used to buy myself flowers after therapy, from the bodega on the corner of my therapist’s office — I made it through another session! As an undergraduate, I marked my Fridays with greasy egg sandwiches purchase on my way to my internship in Cambridge.
More recently, I’ve taken to grabbing a bouquet of whatever’s seasonal while grocery shopping, or stocking up on a few of the Dollar Tree’s better fake offerings. I also try to light candles for no reason at all, and I keep baked goods on display in my kitchen during the weekend. These are small things, to be sure, and they veer into the self-care category at times, yes. But when I feel like I have found something worth celebrating — in this case, the end of what was probably a long and stressful week — I cannot resist committing to the occasion. Whether it’s a thematic Easter breakfast or two dozen store-bought cookies because it’s Friday, I am and always have been nothing but a sucker.
And while the dried lavender that’s been on my table for six months isn’t itself the marker of a national holiday, it does evoke, for me, a sense of celebration; a brief pause to take a breath and remember that the world has continued turning for yet another day and I am allowed, sometimes, to throw a ribbon in my hair and simply, earnestly celebrate that not insignificant occasion.
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