It's my birthday and good things are coming, eventually
August 13, 2022 3:19 PM   Subscribe

I’m turning 30 next week! But I’m in a weird transitional phase of life where I’ve just made a bunch of changes that will improve my life in the long term, but currently have me feeling weird and a bit sad. I’d like to do something for myself to mark the occasion and maybe cheer myself up a little, too. Do you have any suggestions?

Long story short, I just moved back to my hometown and am living out of a suitcase in my parents’ basement while waiting for various paperwork to clear, have separated/am ambivalently long-distance from my long-term partner, am less physically fit than I'm used to being (still recovering from an injury), and my friends are all busy and/or grew apart over the years and no one is able to/wants to meet up. What shall I do instead?
posted by sock here, sock there to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
is there a community college nearby where you could take a class? maybe that one weird thing you've always been intrigued by but never had a chance to check out...seems like a good time to take a little detour and check out something completely different/new. (also maybe a way to meet some new people)
posted by supermedusa at 3:31 PM on August 13 [3 favorites]

I recently had a significant birthday after moving my two children and partner (and dog) into a new house in a new area a few days earlier. I just couldn't do much festivity-wise- we were wrecked and the house was chaos.i told myself that my gift to myself was the acquisition of the space and life I'd wanted for a long time. This was true! And repeating, and focusing on that concept, helped me accept not doing much actively for the birthday day. I think doing something around that theme (for me, I went to a local cafe and a big walk in the lovely open area near our house) also helped me to dwell on the big important changes I'd made that I was proud of, at this stage in my life.
posted by jojobobo at 3:39 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]

I find watching bloopers or super cuts of my favorite tv shows on YouTube makes me immediately feel better. If you need some recommendations, I usually watch The Office or Parks and Rec.
posted by emilynoa at 3:58 PM on August 13

30 is a wonderful year to start a birthday tradition.

For me, my birthday tradition is to spend the day at a river. Over the years there have been different rivers, but my general thing is to sit there for a while, think, read, walk, bring a little food, watch people fish, watch the light change in the autumn branches. Last year, all the aspens in the river canyon dropped their leaves on that one particular day. It was extraordinary.

The invitation list changes sometimes but every year I know what I'm doing for my birthday: I'm going to the river. And I look forward to it all year.
posted by mochapickle at 3:58 PM on August 13 [20 favorites]

I like the saying that is easier to act your way into a new way of feeling, rather than feeling your way into new modes of action. So to take a little edge off sadness, how about 1) this corny but maybe effective Joy Workout.
2. Also, a birthday is a good time to do gratitude exercises.
3. Think about some really fun and funny things that have happened to you. Let yourself laugh long and hard.
4) Then after all that, go out and smile at some strangers because you are not alone. Find a place you can volunteer for a day. Go nuts, get happy because you deserve to be.
posted by storybored at 4:26 PM on August 13 [3 favorites]

Take yourself out on a date. I like to do a three-component outing with a nature segment, a meal (ideally somewhere you can linger with a book, which is also specially purchased for the occasion), and some kind of art/culture segment. Sometimes you can combo the nature/art segments if you have a local botanical garden or horticultural center etc that also rolls in some kind of museum or historical component.

Spend quality time with you. You're at a introspective chapter end/beginning in your life right now, and having a solid intentional good relationship with yourself is going to be the foundation of your new life.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:05 PM on August 13 [4 favorites]

I'm in a very similar position as you. I'm also 30 and moved cross country recently to start living at my parent's house. It's been difficult to reconnect with people in the area for me too and I definitely feel down sometimes.

One thing I've been doing to help is dipping my toes into arts and crafts I haven't tried yet. I did some linocut prints and have been doing origami and plain old sketching. I try to do something maybe every other day to not overcommit myself. But it's been good to be able to look over two or three things I made at the end of each week. When my life is out of this transition art period, I think it will be nice to look at these little artefacts from this time.
posted by crossswords at 6:10 PM on August 13 [3 favorites]

Instead of a day of special activities, plan "a week of activities, in some order, more or less." This way you can switch things around as needed without the stress of ruined expectations.
I like the suggestion by Lyn Never to mix it up with something physical, something mental and something emotional.

One issue as adults is that we miss the thoughtful gestures of others. This is where you become your own event planner, working a surprise into some of the activities. A new dessert, a new film, or a new walking path can reclaim that feeling of discovery.
posted by TrishaU at 6:51 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]

Absolutely walk, asap work up to 3 miles per day, and get to know your town. Get a library card, that opens a world of digital films and books, low cost. Find a coffee place, not necessarily right by a college. Start looking for work you like.
posted by Oyéah at 7:30 PM on August 13

I was in a similar phase at that age, had exited a LTR and was about to start a new job and was just in transition. I went on a road trip alone for two weeks for my 30th birthday, everyone was appalled that I didn’t have a celebration instead but I I met some great people, saw some cool things and had the time of my life.

For me I didn’t want to spend the time at home moping about whatever it was I was supposed to achieved by that age and hadn’t, so I avoided it all and took off. I look back on my adventure very fondly.
So yeah, I vote for road trip.
posted by Jubey at 8:20 PM on August 13

This might be the time to spend some money on something lavish and ridiculous. Hire yourself a horse and carriage to pick you up at the stroke of midnight, take you to the river, where you will light sparklers, take selfies, and drink a split of the fanciest champagne. Take a burlesque or flying trapeze class. Dress all the way up in all white and have a candlelit picnic for one someplace beautiful or strange. Buy a photoshoot session. Do something eccentric and memorable for yourself.
posted by shadygrove at 8:31 AM on August 14

First, happy birthday to you!!

Second, I understand where you're coming from: even though your current life status is completely fine, it can be difficult and a milestone birthday in the middle just makes it harder. I moved back to my hometown during COVID, at first temporarily and now permanently. Admittedly it's the near suburbs of a major metropolitan area but it still felt blah. Two years later and it feels pretty darn good! I've made peace with past insecurities, discovered and rediscovered various spots, and connected and reconnected with new people. I've been working and had my own place for the past year and a half so that definitely helped. I've also been able to save up a LOT of money by living frugally, and that feels good too.

When I was staying with my parents, I dated, exercised a lot at the local gym, and visited old and new parts of town. I started seeing myself -- and my hometown -- through the eyes of an adult and that changes things for the better. My parents and I have a nice new and improved relationship, too, so that has been very positive even with a few bumps along the way. Five years ago I spent my birthday in a cool cabin -- with a shitty, now ex-girlfriend who put me on edge. Four years ago I spent my birthday with a sweet neighbor, with both of us sharing a vegan cheese plate and wine at home while plotting our escapes to a better life. Three years ago I spent my birthday with new friends in a hip bar in Buenos Aires. Two ago, when I was unemployed and without a home, my birthday was spent waking up in a tent on my parents' lawn (it's a long and complicated story), eating cake outside together in the rain under the porch, and exercising (and showering) at the gym before driving to spend the night at a friend's in a nearby town. Last year, after a day of work at my great new job, I spent my birthday evening at a fancy restaurant downtown with a fancy new, now ex, boyfriend surrounded by NBA players who (randomly) happened to be there too, eating delicious food and crying tears of joy while reading this beautiful letter he had written me. At the time, I felt I had FINALLY "made it" in terms of achieving all my life goals, in a way a "fuck you" to the pain and struggles I had had for the years before. Which is sweet but fleeting because life is full of twists and turns. My "amazing" last birthday feels so bittersweet and kinda blah to me now. Milestones that we anticipate with dread or great joy simply become a day in our past. Sometimes it becomes poignant for a reason we don't expect and sometimes we don't even remember what happened. I think it's definitely worth making it special in a way you enjoy or even just wallowing in self-pity if you want -- it's your birthday so you get to choose! And why not do a bit of both?

This year? It's kind of a mix of all that but nothing too wow. I'm nine years older than you so I'm gearing up for my next milestone, which I have decided to celebrate by a recommitment to fitness and wellbeing. You can never go wrong focusing on your mental and physical wellbeing: trying new exercise classes or going on a short daily walk around the block, trying new recipes or simply vowing to eat an extra piece of fruit a day, starting therapy or reading and reflecting on self-help books. This year I am working, still at the job I love, hooray! in the simple apartment that feels cozier than ever. I will likely celebrate it at home with my parents (now inside ha) at some point, attend a new beloved Pilates class at the local rec center that night, and celebrate with a few friends on the weekend at a museum or yummy restaurant. There will be no romance but a lot of love. I look back upon my recent birthdays and the celebrations I savor the most are NOT the fancy ones in fancy places but rather the ones that are simple and real with people who are there for you even in hard times: at home at an unhappy time with the neighbor, cake on the porch with my parents, and beyond.

If I were you, I'd do a fitness activity that left me feeling accomplished, a visit to a cafe for lunch alone -- if that's your thing -- eating something tasty and people watching, maybe going to a bookshop or library, and spending the evening at home with your parents, sharing memories and goals. You can make plans to meet up with a friend or two for coffee or a drink next week: less as a birthday celebration and more as just a fun chance to connect. Whatever you do or don't do, you can't go wrong. Thank you for letting me reflect and share my experiences, and I really hope you find yourself enjoying the day more than anticipated. You are doing great things and already on your way to a better life, and that's beautiful and what truly counts!
posted by smorgasbord at 11:47 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]

You’re getting a lot of suggestions, including, spend a lot on yourself, spend nothing on yourself, spend time in a group setting, spend time alone.

All of these suggestions probably reflect the values held by their posters. I would suggest prioritizing the parts of yourself that you typically haven’t , in the recent past, but seem important.

Maybe that means taking a rest and a break if you’re exhausted from the end of a relationship. Maybe it means seeking out others to do whatever you find fun. But this is one of those rare lulls where you can do something outside of a normal routine. I would think about all the options in this thread and pick the one(s) that feel like they address a part of yourself you’ve neglected. Whatever activity you pick should be a metaphorical hug of yourself.
posted by Parkaboy at 5:43 PM on August 15

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