Spending your birthday alone isn’t sad, it’s glorious

Treat yourself, by yourself

Birthdays are everyone’s yearly pat-yourself-on-the-back. It’s the shiny “you’ve made it, congrats!” celebration of how far you’ve come, and a reminder that you are stronger than all the bullshit life threw at you. They’re filled with phone calls from well-wishing relatives, texts of exploding party popper emojis from friends, most likely a few gifts, and a cake with one more candle than the year before. Or just the big number candles once you’re really old, or have respiratory issues, or both.

But for whatever reason, I’ve never liked spending my birthday in a super celebratory way. Maybe because it falls around the holidays, after I’ve already been over-saturated with family reunion and holiday cheer, but mainly it’s because I see birthdays as a person’s perfectly allotted “me” time. It’s the day to take a break from constant interaction and busyness. 

My favorite birthday was the one I spent solo, in San Francisco. I was a junior in high school, wrapped up in a combination of things that at the time felt very overwhelming, and I needed to escape. So I convinced my parents to gift me a round trip Amtrak ticket, chugged up to East Bay and stayed with my cousin’s family, and then spent my birthday roaming the city. I went to different bookstores, sat on a pier and wrote about the ocean, caught up on Serial, explored graffitied alleyways, bought a loaf of sourdough bread and ate it all, and had an all-around perfect day.


There’s zero pressure

Spending your birthday solo means you can do anything you want. For some people, that’s adventuring and breaking out of their comfort zone. For other’s, it’s pajamas and Seamless.

I’ve been with friends who planned huge birthday dinners, and then spent the whole evening upset because one asshole friend either didn’t show up or bailed last minute. A fancy party can be great fun, but don’t measure your birthday’s success by the number of presents or people who came. Spend the day doing something that makes you happy, just you.


You’ll have time to reflect

On everything, everything. The bad break up, your bad-ass GPA, that failed test that didn’t ruin your bad-ass GPA, the hard-earned job promotion, the favorite coat that you lost at a party, that super sweet first date, all the 3am dance parties with your best friends.  All moments that seem massive while you’re in them, but at the end of the day/year, are filed into the memory bank with everything else, good and bad.


You’ll learn more about yourself

It’s cliché, I know, but seriously, our lives are insanely saturated with noise from friends, family, commitments, work, hobbies, all commotion that, whether happy or tiring, can be overwhelming. It’s hard to hear yourself sometimes, much less actually listen. Take your birthday to breathe and think about whatever, free from the pressure to constantly have certain opinions on certain issues.

By all means, call your parents and relatives and thank them for helping you avoid Doctor Phil. We don’t go through life by ourselves, but take time for yourself on your birthday. Spend the day solo, and make it perfect.

Or just make it work. Project Runway reruns in bed sounds like a great day to me.