Twenty Nine and Birthdays in the Mountains

Tomorrow I turn twenty nine. The number is irrelevant: it's my birthday tomorrow. For the past, well, since the inauguration of my life, tomorrow has been met with a sense of ticker tape and marching bands, which has translated into over-the-top parties, over-thought outfits, professional hair and makeup and lavish shoe purchases that are not only impractical, but frankly painful.

Simply put, every year I prepare for birthday war.

I am always looking to celebrating it bigger. Concepts usually begin to take shape in March. (Okay, January.)

But something funny happened this year. Something I never thought would happen.

There is no birthday party this year. I know. There isn't even an outfit.

Instead of shopping for the perfect party dress to compliment my party theme, Paul bought me a fishing license and a fishing pole.

Instead of Steve Madden stilettos covered in glitter, I bought myself barefoot running shoes so I can rip up mountains like a boss.

It's easy to say these changes have taken place because I only know two other people here. But in reality, I think it's just because I'm happier.

Birthdays used to mean celebrating once a year for a day (okay a week). You only get one day (week) to be ridiculous and do whatever you want. And when my mom passed away, her absence has always been so pronounced on my birthday because she was the authority on celebrations.

But I don't have to go to birthday war to remember her. And I don't have to stress myself out and force myself into shoes I'm only going to wear once, for an hour, in order to win at birthdays.

This year, with such an exaggerated fresh start, I wanted to be honest with myself and really figure out what I really wanted. So here are my birthday plans, boiled down into all of my favorite things.

Tomorrow, Eve is going to take me to a place in Truckee that serves Blue Bottle coffee from the Bay, which is the best coffee I've ever had. Then I'm going to the beach and I'm going to read a lot and maybe take a nap. Then we are going to eat ice cream before dinner because my mom always said, "Life is short: Eat dessert first." Then Paul is going to make dinner and then we're going to Commons Beach to watch a kids movie at dusk. Thursday is Truckee Thursdays, which is a weekly street fest and we will attend to eat tacos out of a food truck and eat a huge cupcake at Cake Tahoe and drink a sloe gin fizz at Cal-Neva Casino while playing three rounds of nickel slots. And I will wear an outfit I bought a year ago that I love because looking for the "perfect" birthday outfit is stressful and usually makes me look like a fashion victim, not on purpose.

This birthday, and from here on out, is about absolutely no stress. There is no perfect way to celebrate your birthday or to wear your birthday or to eat your birthday. What matters is tacos and cupcakes and being around people that really love you. I will miss all of you Ohio-Michigan people that I love dearly and that have put up with my birthday nonsense for so many years, but Tahoe has taught me yet another lesson of keepin' it casual and authentic. Fishing makes me feel like a kid again catching blue gill at the farm pond and I can't hike up a mountain in stilettos. Professional hair and makeup aren't necessary as I am really okay with how I look without any of those things. (Honest moment: I've only worn makeup thrice since I've been here. Liberating. I love my face without it.) And if I'm really true to myself and the birthday legacy that my mom left, it's that birthdays are supposed to celebrate your life, not the one you think you should have.

I still love my birthday week. I'd be lying if I said I haven't been thinking about this day for at least a month. But there are so many great days in your life that you can celebrate. Why only settle for just one week? Celebrate a random Wednesday with a cupcake and make a wish with the first bite. Hollow out a portion of your weed-whacking weekend and just get out of town, even if it's just for an hour. Let yourself do something completely self-fulfilling instead of laundry. Remember what it was like to play for hours outside after dinner.

That's the essence of birthdays: there is always something worthy of a celebration. Finally out of birthday party jail, twenty nine may be the best one yet.

Here's to believing in everyday.

My Incredible Birthday Legacy

And to the one who started it all......