For some, birthdays are the best part of their year. I dread them. They are just so stressful, so many expectations, so few of them ever met.
But also I am SUCH a hypocrite (don’t @ me). Whenever I find out it’s someone’s birthday, I always lose my shit on them and force them to do something fun for their birthday. Because everyone deserves to be celebrated and reminded of how important they are in the world…right?
Well… yes. But also the shitty thing about that, is that you have to allow yourself to be celebrated in order to receive all of that love and appreciation. If you don’t let anyone know it’s your birthday or that you care about it, how are they supposed to know? THAT’S SCARY THOUGH! Okay maybe not for everyone (??literally how are other people not scared of their birthday??) but allowing yourself to be celebrated means putting yourself out there! But God forbid, it turns into the dreaded birthday party that literally every 7 year old has nightmares about, that they invite all of their friends over but no one shows up.
So this year I decided to challenge myself. I was going to host a celebration. Yeah, sure, this seems so easy. But also if you’ve ever had a chance to look inside my mind, you would not be surprised that this was me:
“I wonder what time works for everyone… Will everyone be able to afford this place? How many people can I have without pissing off the restaurant? What if we just chilled by the bar? Would we piss of the restaurant if we were just loitering? Will everyone have fun? What if people come but don’t have anyone to talk to and then feel awkward? What if no one comes at all?” I straight up sent Stuart the blueprint floor plans of the restaurant I wanted to go to and was like, okay Stuart, you’re the one with spatial skills, will there be enough space?
And yes, the neurosis continued. Without getting into too much detail, we didn’t celebrate my birthday after my mom left when I was a little girl so I feel like I never learned how to do this. I feel like I never learned how to be celebrated. The combination of mental illness, past trauma and a deep-seated fear of being an inconvenience culminated into this huge cloud of fear that hovered over my birthday and the closer it got, the less capable I felt in undertaking it.
So with help and support of close friends, I sent out invites for a brunch celebration. Teresa and I talked beforehand and she told me that she wanted me to stop during this and take a deep breath. “Look around and soak it in. Take mental pictures of everyone’s faces and who showed up to support the day that you came into this world.”
So here’s what one of those snapshots ended up looking like:
I hope you can appreciate how happy I look in this because I truly felt like a ray of sunshine had shone on me.
And if you look at this picture, there is not one person that hasn’t been to November Project, if not a regular that comes every week. I would say that half of these people I met through medical school, nor did I intentionally invite exclusively NP people. Regardless, these are the people that *decide* to #justshowup. I know we throw out that hashtag basically every week but really it has so much meaning. It’s not just about showing up at 6:14am on Wednesday mornings. Sure that is fucking hard especially when it’s below freezing and you have to scrape your car windows because it snowed and put on 7 layers of clothes and make sure you have your hand warmers. But people decide to show up anyways, despite the obstacles. For themselves, for others, for the community. Because we really are stronger together than as individuals. But #justshowup applies to more than Wednesday mornings. It applies to everything. Your job, your family, your life.
Before this last week, I would have worried (and frankly did worry) about people showing up. But it just so happens that in the last year, I have surrounded myself with people who FIERCELY show up. They show up with intention and purpose and love and gratitude and selflessness. They show up.
This brings us to my actual birthday and I thought that the celebrations were all over. I accomplished my goal of creating a space in which to be celebrated and it was nothing short of amazing. But let’s be real, I should have known better of Stuart and Teresa. I showed up to dinner and there were more than 10 people sitting there waiting for me with balloons, cake, birthday hats, and most importantly warm hugs and smiles. An entirely different group of people that couldn’t make it Sunday but still wanted to celebrate came out for a second round of celebration.
My heart stopped. How could there possibly be more people that wanted to celebrate? I have spent my entire life trying to rewrite this internal dialogue about what I deserve in the world. It’s a daily struggle but the people in NP were going to celebrate me whether I liked it or not. Whether I felt I deserved it or not. People decorated my car, hand made me a birthday hat that said “November Project Queen”, baked me a cake, bought balloons, (shout out to Morgan) and then to top it all off, a collective gift of a photo album that had an index card from everyone in the NP squad with their thoughts and well wishes.
Remember in the beginning when I said that birthdays are the worst because they never live up to expectations? I’m not sure anyone has ever been so wrong in their entire life.
I have never felt so blessed to be surrounded by SUCH an amazing group of people. They have busy lives, have their own families, have their own responsibilities, but they made the time to #justshowup like they do every single week and I cannot express my gratitude enough to have these people in my life. I feel so fortunate to have such a precious group of humans in my life, all different in their own special way but fiercely supportive and loving. My heart feels like it’s on fire with the amount of love and appreciation I have felt this week.
If you have been a part of my week, from the very depths of my heart I want to thank you. Your involvement however big or small made this the most special and beautiful birthday I have ever had. It surpassed any expectations I could have ever dreamed and the little girl I used to be would be so happy to see what my life has become and what lovely people are in it.
This is just proof that this community extends out SO much further than fitness. And if you allow yourself, you may just find the people that are ready to fiercely show up for you too. There’s no shortage of love here. #justshowup
I would like to leave you with two things:
- Ugly Sweater Day is next week. You won’t want to miss out on this one.
- Hug someone that you love before we see you on Wednesday. Make sure they know you love them. I love you guys and can’t wait to see you and give you my own hug. Until then I’ll leave you with my favorite hug photos from this week.
You guys leave me speechless. Do good Columbus.