The Beauty of International Birthdays
As my 36th birthday approaches in two weeks, and having had a wonderful, albeit, domestic birthday for the first time in 5 years thanks to the pancetta (as a new friend grudgingly nicknamed ‘Rona) I’m pensive, as is usually the case as I close one chapter and mentally prepare to start the next. One thing I think back to that has drastically changed in my life is how I actually celebrate my birthday and the rationale of why I’m so serious about NOT being home when it happens.
When I think back to my 20s it was a storied decade of partying hard, being a social butterfly to the fullest, and drinking copious amounts of alcohol. I should probably mention that I am thoroughly PLEASED with having been able to party and exist in my 20s in the years that I did because the scene now is different-different (more on that later)!
In my 20s, after graduating from UPenn and moving back home to Brooklyn, the city was literally my and OUR playground. Fresh out of college, with an entry-level job, classmates who relocated here for work, my Zeta and Sigma family from Temple close by, and an existing network of friends from childhood, each year presented an opportunity to explore different facets of the city while convening all these different spheres of my life. During these years when my social butterfly capacity was at its peak, I hosted multi-day events, where people could drop in and participate in what worked for them. From riding a mechanical bull at 23, to club nights throughout the city, and group dinners—I even earned a knack for helping people plan their birthday celebrations (the pattern of curating in my life runs deeper than travel folks!). But as life soldiers on, friendships go through their seasons, time passes and the priorities and social scene change... So fast forward to last year, when my 35th birthday was approaching my partner asked me what I wanted to do, and of course I knew I couldn’t travel, so I literally told him “nothing.” I think the younger part of me—you know the older persona of you that is always INSIDE even if you’ve cleaned up on the OUTSIDE—cringed and threw a gargantuan-sized tantrum when I verbalized this out loud to someone who was invested in some aspect of fun. . .Yet as a new mom, who mourned the baby shower I couldn’t have—yet realized how blessed I was despite NOT being able to party with my baby in utero, celebrating my birthday wasn’t something I felt like I wanted or needed to do.
Of course, my partner being the great man that he is, and also not wanting me to do nothing to celebrate my birthday, decided to plan a surprise for me. In concert with my best friend, he gathered my closest folks for what was a dope ass party bus! Looking back on that night, it was special because I got to celebrate my birthday during the panorama, and turn up with the people in my world who helped me have fun throughout the panny, get out of the house, and who have been there for countless birthday INCLUDING the multi-day things I did back in my 20s. Having grown up together, partying with my sibling/cousins was a huge bonus. I have the same birthday as my older cousin, sister, hairstylist, and fellow hustling
mama Petrovna, and my brother Junebug (as I affectionately call him) is two days later on November 11th. Growing up we always shared my mom’s homemade and decorated birthday cakes, swapping out the candles for the appropriate ages. As adults though, we usually do our own thing.
Another bonus was that even if my partner didn’t realize it, he tapped into the old school, life-of-the-party Anne, who for a long time prior to the party bus, had decided to pivot from the multi-day, epic birthdays, to the more low-key approach of traveling to celebrate my personal new year. When I think about it, maybe he knew all along, and was trying to bring that old thing back, since he didn’t (thankfully) meet that damn Anne lolol. As my partner was planning this party bus and without my involvement, I was kind of reminded of why I had abandoned local birthday planning in exchange for a getaway. It’s funny how adulthood and maturity evolves your thinking about things that we used to do, and so his planning my celebration brought up a few of the very reasons I prefer to just go away. As if adulting wasn’t hard enough, people make it really hard to plan for things given their response time...IF they actually respond. While my guests were relatively good about this, he was a little nervous when trying to make the magic party bus happen by way of reserving the right type of vehicle to accommodate the right amount of people. Birthdays are sort of low on this RSVP totem pole honestly, but just ask folks who actually NEED RSVPs for things like weddings and catered events and you already know what I mean. As a calendar-driven individual, who also is known for showing up for my friends, I felt a little bad for bae as he tried to navigate a predominantly herculean effort of collecting all the yays, nays, and keeping it from me at the same time. Although my other cousin spilled the beans by accident (we always talk about what we are going to wear when we go out lol and so she slipped up and said “the bus..I mean the boat” LOL —this particular cousin is NOT the one for secret surprises) — I was still surprised at how much my partner and bestie really went all out (balloons, catered food, an itinerary) just for my special day. It was a turn-up indeed, and while it felt really nice to relive my heydays of partying in the safest of spaces with some of my favorite people in the world—my body definitely had qualms about it the next day. 35 was definitely a memory I won’t ever forget but I’m also excited and grateful to get back to the (somewhat) regularly scheduled program of getting the hell out of here for my 36th birthday!! Because I’ve celebrated my birthday in another country over the past few years, I am clearly biased when I say that international birthdays are especially beautiful for a variety of reasons. Largely influenced by what I’ll outline below, my hope is that you will consider celebrating your birthday in a different place (even if it isn’t overseas) too.
1. One reason I believe international birthdays are the best is because the scene at home is familiar. After such storied YEARS of gathering folks, tracking all the ppl who could come, but didn’t, had something come up, etc.—I no longer wanted to bring in a new year (the epitome of which is a fresh and new START)—TRYING to put a fresh spin on the same place I live in, doing the same things I could and still do otherwise. My philosophy is: why attempt to find something new at home when I can have an all- around new experience somewhere else!
This idea really started in earnest, when I had the pleasure of celebrating my 30th birthday in Paris. One fun fact is that technically, this Paris trip in 2015 was my second attempt at curating a personally hosted group experience. As one of my favorite cities in the world, and one of the few places I NEVER get tired of going to, I figured it was worth a shot. Also, having been a predominantly solo traveler, I had come off a few group experiences that confirmed I could do this work—and also that my birthday would be amazing if it happened as I had envisioned it. My high school classmate/good friend and her then significant other took a chance and joined me for what is STILL one of the best times I’ve ever had in the City of Lights. I called that trip “Lumiere et L’Amour (Light & Love)” as those were the things I wanted to embody for my 30th year.
My 30th birthday was epic and I enjoyed every second of sharing my favorite city with friends, and also us giving each other the autonomy to do and explore what we felt like. While I had planned to have six or more people, it was just the 3 of us and perfect as can be. This trip gave me confidence in many ways, and also taught me a lot about the importance of the people who support your dreams, the positive & necessary energy they’ll bring, and also how to let people do their own thing in any group-curated experience. While this blog post helped me tap into that long-planted confidence, there are a few people in my corner who have seen just how LONG I’ve been on this course! *Special shout out to one of my biggest supporters in life, Nino, THANK YOU isn’t enough, but as this blog continues to grow so too will the good karma & chance you took in rocking with me then (and of course, now!) — Kevin, I also appreciate you rocking with me on the strength, walking to the ends of the earth throughout the city, and trying snail lol (I remember) #Tele4ever!
2. Another reason I believe international birthdays are the best is because the scene just isn’t what it used to be AND I am no longer who I used to be. And my version of “fun,” and doing that which I love the most on the day I was born puts me in the BEST possible situation with the LEAST amount of external stress.
As life started to evolve for me and take me in a different direction including the great recession of 2008, going back to get my Master’s Degree, relocating to Dallas for a year, and then moving back home without many people knowing I had moved back provided an anonymity that I appreciated. . .And a lot of those things and people I enjoyed in my 20s dissipated. Shoot, New York City changed a WHOLE lot from then until now, and I wouldn’t really WANT to party in the city with things as they are now. I don’t know that I could even if I wanted to, given the music, proliferation of phones everywhere, and sheer volume of people posted on walls. In hindsight, I think my 20s was the best adulting practice in recognizing
that trying to appease multiple people for the sake of trying to catch-up and include them in your life will most likely STILL result in a smaller circle regardless of what you try to include them in. 3. International birthdays are the best because the entire experience becomes the memory of your personal new year vs. the group dinners most of us opt for when we don’t go away; the coordination of moving parts when trying to include people; and/or the work involved in trying to curate your own celebration while seemingly putting others and the planning work ahead of yourself.
After partaking in many a group dinner when I was in my 20s, where people abused the hell out of the idea of eating as a group—you know the ones: ordering ALL the things, but acting like they don’t “know” tax/tip need to be added; ordering take out for their ppl and leaving everyone with the bill; the group that doesn’t have ONE person who can manage the process of splitting a check; and not thinking to pay for the birthday person’s meal I am now (generally speaking), just turned off and am over that part of life. Also, as someone who plans events, and often considers others’ needs in the work I do regularly, it’s nice to be where I want to be without having to care about much else besides where I want to be.
4. This brings me to another reason I love international birthdays. Your birthday actually becomes a month-long celebration with the people who want to treat you because you were gone! While I am over GROUP dinners in general, after all of my birthday trips, I meet my girls where they are and when they can meet for a more intimate and chill vibe where we can catch up in real time. It also takes about 3 months to get a meeting with any one of my friends these days at the rate we’re adulting, so, yeah, being gone for your birthday is an actual hack to getting a hangout session with your nearest and dearest.
5. Lastly, having celebrated my birthday overseas several times over since I first made the intention to do so, I find that it is the perfect way to connect with myself and set the intention for my new journey around the sun. Because travel is something I truly love, I’ve found that my international birthday celebrations are the ultimate flex of “self-care” which is the trendiest thing to SAY but hard to consistently execute in a world that pushes things OVER actual experiences. . .
And so, whether it is solo, with a small group, you and bae, or you and the family I truly hope you consider traveling to celebrate a birthday in the future. If you need any help in getting there, I’m an email away and happily dabble in making a personal new year’s special.