7 Lessons I Learned the Hard Way Emotionally Wasted on my Birthday Tara Schuster

I am festive person. I love glitter, champagne, dancing and have often cried “Huzzah!” when something goes my way. I delight in planning parties for my friends: from bachelorettes and Shabbat dinners to Mad Men premiere potlucks and 19th century=style salons, you name it and I’ll find a way to celebrate it. So it should come as no surprise that on my own birthday, I want the night to be the bomb dot com. I want my friends to have THE BEST time. “Remember Tara’s birthday when we got tipsy on Kir Royales and sweaty danced the night away at an after hours silent disco in the heart of MoMa? That was straight up a highlight of my human pleasures,” my nearest and dearest might say on her deathbed. While all of these plans sound delightful, they all have a distinct and regrettable fact in common: each of those birthdays ended with me teary-eyed and on the verge of complete mental break down. Happy birthday!

Last year I found myself alone, drunk and weepy… and being escorted by security out of said silent disco. Someone literally said to me, “The party is over.” BURN. Upon stumbling home, I became so inconsolable and down on life that I locked myself in my bathroom to cry, drunk dialed my therapist and could only be soothed to sleep by my very patient then-boyfriend singing me the sweet and sad Cookie Monster song. C is for cookie, and indeed, cookie is good enough for me. The next morning my head pounding and feeling embarrassed, I recognized that this night was not an isolated incident. It was just one in a larger pattern of birthday fails. There was the time I broke down in a speakeasy in Grand Central Station and had the sobbiest cab ride of my life, there was the time I accused a dancing throng of friends in my dorm room of being fascists then cried to my friends that I loved my parents (in my defense — super funny). I’m generally a well adjusted and optimistic person, so why do I consistently turn into a mess/wreck/disaster on a night meant to celebrate?

The easy answer is that I drink too much on my birthday and put so much pressure on the night needing to be baller awesome that it can never live up to my expectations. The booze alone leads to a lot of instability and disorderly conduct on my part. On a typical, normal human night, I usually don’t drink at all. But on my birthday I drink like prohibition is going to start at sunrise and I have one last night of glory before the coppers steal my fun. A round of Pickle Backs! Gin martinis infused with cilantro? BRING THE GOBLET TO ME. The amount of booze flowing is directly proportional to the amount of delight being had. It’s just science.

The hooch* leaves me vulnerable and in this state the angst and anxiety that I usually manage/suppress/bury somewhere deep bubbles up like lava and does whatever lava does**. If I start my day bright and excited for the future, then by night I’m worried that if I haven’t achieved all of my artistic ambitions by this age, I never will. I hear whispers that I’m a failure or worse, I am a fraud without real talent. “You’re too old to achieve anything,” I hear. “By 27 you should have achieved all of your artistic dreams. Everyone else (Lena Dunham) has!”  Normal, sober, not emotionally distraught me knows these feelings are just my fears and should be dismissed. But for vulnerable, drunk me, dealing with getting older is easy prey to my inner hater. Also, did I mention my birthday is on the shortest day of the year when there is little sunlight? Seasonal depression, people!

Looking back at my birthdays and finding a regrettable pattern has shown me a greater truth: these nights of distress will keep happening unless I choose for the night to play out differently. And actually, that goes for all things. I am never going to wake up and suddenly be more honest, or more kind, or a more happy person. Instead I have to actively do the work to become whatever self I want to be. It’s scary as hell to have to choose who you are but also pretty cool because it’s a choice. I’m sure there is a t-shirt somewhere that says that more eloquently that I can. So this year I vow not to get emotionally f**ked up on my birthday. I’m going to limit what I drink but more importantly I’m going to silence that ugly little voice when it starts to tell me what a failure I am and that I’m getting too old. I’ll tell that voice, “Thank you for sharing, but actually I am wonderful and as proof, look at all the loved ones who came out to be with me.” The little hater in me is always going to hate, but I don’t have to agree.

* Yes I said, hooch. I’ll say a lot of other things if you let me, sailor!

** Not my best analogy, but you try finding one

Do you ever feel this way? Tweet me, plz. I wanna know.

Featured image via ShuttersStock

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  1. It’s pretty awesome that you figured out the key to never having a sad birthday ever again in just a one-page story.

  2. My birthday celebration was full of kleenex, runny nose, sore throat, medicine, temperature…. I had the worst flu ever…on my birthday. Had shaking muscles instead of martinis, vic vaporub syrup instead of beer and a lot of sleeping time..and that happened just last wednesday. Turning 30.
    The emotion of welcoming to a new decade of my life is now a pile of dirty kleenex.
    But it is never too late to start celebrating life. No numbers, no time just life.