37 is not a “big” birthday.
It’s weird; there is a very specific point in our lives (at least in Western/American society) where we seem to be having milestone birthdays almost constantly: 10 heralds in double-digits; 13 is bat/bar mitzvahs and the start of the teenage years; Sweet 16 and being able to drive/at the age of consent; 18 and being a legal adult; 21 and being legal, full-stop.
Then nothing until 30 — you go over a decade having these big, celebratory birthdays one after the other, and then nine years of nothing before you hit a milestone that we are a society (And women especially) have been conditioned to dread. It’s all kinds of bullshit, folks. And then after that, we celebrate the decades. 40, 50, 60. Ten years waiting to celebrate, what, surviving the preceding ten years? How sad. For real. Just, how fucking sad.
Like, I get that the traditional societal milestones kind of taper off after 21; once you are a legal adult, what’s there to celebrate about getting older?
Like… lots, actually. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever been happier with my life than I have been in my 30s. Some of that, granted, comes from the fact that I am, in many ways, quite privileged, and have financial, familial, and career stability, and I know that’s not true for a lot of people, through no personal failings of theirs.
But by the same token, most of the satisfaction I felt during the last decade or so has been because of choices I’ve made and efforts I’ve put in for personal victories and milestones, not because of pre-ordained rights of passage. I’m happier because I’ve taken some risk, taken up new hobbies, learned new things, and, honestly, stopped putting so much stock in the thing society says I should be doing.
So, I think we should come up with, not new milestones necessarily, but new ways of celebrating our years after 30, each year with a new theme or new ritual.
Like, ok: I’ve noticed that there has been a trend in recent years where people love to write articles and listicles about what women over 30 should “never” wear. Oh, fuck those articles hardcore. Our 31st birthdays should be about celebrating and refining our personal styles; we should have swap meet parties, where all our friends bring over clothing and we swap and share, and/or go thrift store hopping, finding unique pieces that flatter and define our own personal styles, build a “Fuck You, I Wear What I Want” wardrobe, and have an epic photo-shoot. That’s it, that’s 31. We celebrate saying eff-off to people telling us how to look and how to dress, and embrace our own unique styles.
32 is when I started to really feel like I’d lost a lot of social connection (part of that was having a kid, which can be very isolating in the earliest years), so 32 maybe is a celebration of your closest friendships and a move to make new ones. Spend the day reminiscing with your favorite people; break out photo albums (which are probably becoming obsolete relics, but I know I still have a few); have everyone contribute to a memory jar, writing down your favorite in-jokes, moments, milestones, and memories; have lunch at your favorite haunt from your younger years (if it’s possible; I know mine was Borders, and that’s a thing of the past now, sadly); and cap the night off by heading out to a meet-up for a mutual interest, where you can all make connections and hopefully forge some new friendships, as well.
I mean, it would take me a while to come up with one for every year, but how nice would that be, to have a reason to really look forward to birthdays again? To feel like you’re still growing and that each year means something new, means new growth, instead of just another year older?
I’m not sure what 37 is yet. I’ve got a few hours left to figure it out and define it, but I turn 37 tomorrow, and I’ll be spending time with a childhood friend who I haven’t seen in nine years, and visiting a city I adore, so I think I have a good foundation for a good day.
I’ll let you know what’s special about 37 on the flipside (and hey, if anyone else is interested in new rituals for each year of your 30s, I’m having fun and would love to continue this train of thought later), but for now I’m just going to celebrate seeing a beautiful city, an old friend, and another year.