Celebrating My Birthday After a Year in Quarantine
Photo Credit: PERO studio/Shutterstock
A January birthday has its ups and downs. As a kid, it meant you were hit with the double whammy of Christmas and birthday gifts in close succession. But, this was then followed by months of no events wherein you would receive a pile of presents, a mild bummer for an 8-year-old. As an adult, I appreciate the ability to knock out my “year end” nostalgia and my “one year older” nostalgia all at once. It helps put a nice button on my seasonal depression.
At this time last year, anything and everything seemed possible. We were starting a new decade, so the same old New Year’s resolutions didn’t cut it. No, this was the time to make the grand, life-changing resolutions. Invest in that new restaurant, move to that new city — it was 2020, after all!
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to take nothing for granted.
In 2020, a January birthday meant I still got to hold a regular birthday party. I corralled together around 30 of my favorite people in the two-bedroom New York apartment that I share with my fiancé, without a care in the world. Even just typing that sentence feels foreign now, never mind the idea of actually having almost three dozen people in close quarters, mask-less, around me. I had no idea that night would be the last time I would see some of those beautiful people in person for the entire year. If I’d have known, I would have hugged them a little bit tighter.
Now that the new year has hit again and my next birthday is looming, I find myself with a “one year older” nostalgia unlike any before. Six weeks after my last birthday, the world shut down. In many ways, it’s hard not to feel that in 2020, I only really lived those six weeks.
So, how can I be another year older if my whole life has been on pause for a year? How do I reconcile the addition to my age with the many, many subtractions from my life? When this year, for many of us, has brought great loss — be it the loss of a loved one, a job, or just human interaction. How does one celebrate a year of one’s life spent in quarantine?
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to take nothing for granted. So, even having a birthday, the privilege of growing another year older is something I am grateful for. And, gratitude is a great place to start when looking forward to the next year in your life.
Sense of Purpose in Era of Chaos
COVID-19 has stripped our lives down to a few bare essentials. For me, that means my home, my partner, and my job — all three of which I am insanely lucky to have, especially at this time. Losing the distractions of the outside world has forced me to spend more time with myself than I have in years. And, with a good stark look at the much smaller world around me, I’m surprised by the areas close to home I’ve been neglecting. Plans put off until later, ideas I’ll work on when I have the time … it’s crazy how one can be so active in life and yet so passively living at the same time.
In what has been a year that has felt wildly out of my control, this new perspective has given me a proactive sense of purpose. Take, for instance, my apartment. I have always been the type to be so over-scheduled that I viewed my apartment more as a large closet than anything else, a pit stop between errands that contained my clothes and bed. Now, I actually find myself sitting around daydreaming new ways to organize and decorate the place that has now become my home, office, and gym. My home is slowly shaping up to be more aesthetically pleasing and organized than it has been in years. And, as a result, my life is that much easier, that much better. This out-of-control world has forced me to find the areas in my life where I could take control — and improve.
Though they may seem small, these kinds of micro-improvements can make a big impact on your overall life when combined. For months before quarantine began, my fiancé and I had discussed taking up painting. Stripped of our usual weekend plans due to COVID, we cracked into the paint kits that had sat previously unopened in our closet for months. As a result, we’ve both discovered a new outlet that we love and look forward to.
I had no idea that night would be the last time I would see some of those beautiful people in person for the entire year. If I’d have known, I would have hugged them a little bit tighter.
But, there’s no need to think small. On the occasion of my 2021 birthday, I’ve really been thinking about my long-term goals. There are many things I’ve wanted to achieve, many experiences that I’ve wanted to have that are off-limits to me for the time being. I always took for granted that when I was ready, these things, these experiences, would be waiting. Now, nothing is certain. And, I’ve learned not to wait. Being on pause for a year has made me long to be an active participant in my own life.
Right now, while life is on “pause,” you can lay the foundation for the life you want to live. Even if you can only make the small improvements — make them. Write the first draft of your short story, call the old friend from high school who you still think about. Do something. And then? Do something more. Before you know it, when life goes from pause to play, you’ll be able to see the improvements you've made in your life on display in the real world.
This year and for the next year of my life, I am making big resolutions. The grand, life-changing kind of promises. Nothing is guaranteed, but anything’s possible. After all, it’s 2021.
This post is part of a month-long January CircleAround series in which we asked writers to explore the topic "New Year, New You." After an extremely challenging year like no other, if you had to reinvent yourself in one specific way in 2021 based on what you learned in the pandemic, what would you do? Think of it as a New Year’s resolution on steroids. To see all the posts in the series, visit here. And if you'd like to contribute to the series, send us your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or post on our "2021 Vibes Wall."