Hello, 38! 💃
Last Sunday was my 38th birthday. Thirty-eight is a humble, unimposing number that holds no particular significance, marks no momentous transition. It’s an easy birthday to overlook, and I almost did.
I’m not the type to forget my own birthday. Instead, I’m the type to throw myself a party which is planned months in advance. This year, for obvious reasons, that tradition was off the table. (I don’t care much for astrology, but this tweet spoke to me deeply.) Instead of a backyard bash, my husband and I kayaked to our favorite barrier island for a socially-distanced celebration on Saturday, and I spent my actual birthday mostly alone until the evening, when I got to spend a few precious hours with dear friends and delicious cake. A different kind of celebration, but appropriate for The Times.
For the last seven years, I’ve written a literary time capsule to mark my birthday and life as it is right now. I almost skipped this year’s, but that felt dishonest. So here’s my ode to 38 - the good, the bad, and the in-between.
✨ 38 ✨
Thirty-eight is a career that I honestly, truly like. It’s feeling incredibly lucky that despite not spending my formative years pursuing a traditional path (I was going to be an ~artist~), I ended up working for a great company with a team of incredible people, doing work I mostly find interesting and enjoyable. Thirty-eight is excitement about the opportunities ahead and the promise of professional growth, while recognizing the privilege of such an increasingly rare position.
Thirty-eight is longing for friends and family, even the ones who live in the same city. It’s grief for the budding friendships put on hold, for the deeper relationships taking new forms, for the family visits that now require mental gymnastics, risk mitigation, and mixed feelings. It’s delighting in my two-year-old nephew and understanding, finally, how children can make everything seem new again. At the same time, thirty-eight is feeling perfectly satisfied by the role of Cool Aunt, with zero desire (still!) to become a mother myself.
Thirty-eight is the zen of writing, and caring more about the act of creation than publication. It’s another novel shoved into my desk drawer, and a new project that feels alive and full of possibility. Thirty-eight is understanding that my writing doesn’t require outside validation to matter (though I am not opposed to it!!). It’s the community and encouragement I’ve found through this newsletter, which is one of my thirties' most unexpected joys.
Thirty-eight is 18 years together and counting. It’s a marriage that never feels boring because it keeps changing and evolving. It’s mostly long distance right now, an echo of our beginning that offers some of that same sweetness. Thirty-eight is the steadiness of love, a gift in a world that is anything but.
Thirty-eight is a birthday that took place in the middle of a pandemic, during a week that also included a hurricane and an earthquake. It’s a life that has narrowed, in a world that has grown smaller. It’s anger and frustration, canceled plans and abandoned goals, incompetent leaders and broken systems. But it’s also new routines and silver linings: a daily meditation practice, morning walks with the dog, watching my plants birth new leaves, working the polls on election day, my home office, and sparkling water. Thirty-eight is getting into the best shape of my life thanks to YouTube and boredom. It’s Zoom yoga and video conferences, less alcohol and more protein, book club and back decks and the beach. Thirty-eight is not what I imagined, yet learning to be okay with that. At least I’m here.
Snack of the Week
In lieu of my canceled birthday party, my dear friend Katie, an incredible poet, dedicated cat lady, and amazing baker, offered to make me any dessert my heart desired. I chose strawberry shortcake, and it was easily the best decision I've made all year. My favorite part: eating it on my back deck, while sitting six feet away from some of my favorite Wilmington friends. 🍓❤️🍓
An Actually Useful Guide to Not Being On Your Phone All the Time, VICE. "Let go of the idea that you have to be constantly on, available, and up to speed on every micro-drama, meme, and niche news story." Things that have worked for me when it comes to phone-life balance: turning off 90% of my notifications, keeping Instagram and Twitter off my home screen, and writing this newsletter. Now I just need to get better about making actual phone calls... 🔌
Wanted: Young People To Work The Polls This November, NPR. I am incredibly passionate about working the polls - I did it for the first time this past March, and I will keep doing it as long as I can. It's honestly one of the best, most direct and effective things you can do to protect voting rights in the USA. Please consider signing up 🇺🇸
One Legacy of the Pandemic May Be Less Judgment of the Child-Free, The Atlantic. "While the parents in my life have been openly acknowledging the challenges of parenting during the pandemic, my child-free friends have for the first time been sharing that they are relieved they don’t have children. Many of us have been quietly admitting to one another that a decision we’ve often been told we’d regret or should be ashamed of doesn’t seem like the worst decision in the world." 👶🏼
A Tiny Challenge
It looks like we're all destined to have at least one pandemic birthday. If you've had one, what did you? If your birthday is approaching, what are your plans? How are you making the days feel different and special, even during quarantine? Asking for me - I need some new ideas.
Talk to you in two weeks! 💌
Thank you to Carol D. Britany R., and Sarah K. for the celebratory coffees in honor of my !
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