Last Wednesday, I turned 24. I’m not really sure when I stopped feeling strongly about birthdays, but I was never very good at them. I always had such high expectations for my birthdays and then usually ended up disappointed. I’m not sure but I’ve always felt that birthdays are high pressure situations with a lot of expectations and presumptions about what you “should” want or what you’re “supposed” to do. I also think my birthday’s timing makes it uniquely positioned for high expectations. June 21st is the first day of summer and every couple of years it’s also Father’s Day. I’ve spent plenty of birthdays away from home and/or friends and family, which has, I think, always added extra pressure to my birthdays when I was home.
I first started traveling for “academic enrichment” (think: camps, schools, classes) when I was 13-going-on-14 and not yet in high school. I know my 14th birthday was spent at Yale. I don’t remember my 15th birthday. For my 16th, my friends and family organized a surprise party in Brasil for me.
I don’t remember my 17th birthday party, but I know that I was at Georgetown and Princeton that summer, so my birthday probably just got lost in that shuffle. My 18th birthday was a party we threw in my mom’s basement and it was a blast. That was the first summer I spent entirely home and the combination of everyone driving, disposable income (and 60+ hour work weeks), graduation parties, and the Jersey Shore made it a great summer to remember that kicked off with my birthday. Okay, arguably, it kicked off with prom nearly a month earlier, but this was the transition from “graduation season” to “summer season.” I loved that outfir so much.
Much like my high school years, my college birthdays were spent traveling, making it hard to do anything real or specific. I spent my 19th throwing a dorm party with my coworkers as a TA’d a summer program for high school students. All my friends from that summer- a hodge podge collection from so many different parts of my life- came and my roommates were so wonderful.
I spent my 20th birthday celebrating in Brasil with my family. That summer I spent 8 weeks living out of a carry-on suitcase and galavanting across this hemisphere, visiting Brasil, Chile, Bolivia, and the south of the US, totaling something absurd like 13 cities and 20-something flights. It was a summer of huge lifestyle changes for me. I was doing research for school and balancing those demands with my want to just be a tourist made for a lot of growing up real fast.
Twenty-one is supposed to be a big birthday. I was already dating Casey and that point, but he was off in Texas for some training and I was only in town for a day. I went from my birthday to an event in Texas to Casey’s birthday and goodbye for some other training he would be doing in England and Germany for the summer. I had one night and I didn’t have the time to catch up with everyone, so I went out with my younger sister who served as both good company and my designated driver.
My twenty-second birthday coincided with the beginning of VFA Training Camp. In other words, I spent that birthday getting to know 100 of my would-soon-become closest friends. That didn’t though stop my from celebrating in New Haven with Casey at midnight the night before. Of course, when I posted this on instagram, I used the caption “I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling twenty-two” because I’m an unoriginal Taylor Swift fan.
Twenty-three, well that was a bit of a shit-show birthday. I wrote about it a lot here, and I encourage you to read it if you want a reminder of how much the Army sucks, but it’s not a birthday I would choose to re-experience. The short version of it was that I moved to Fort Bragg, knew no one, and Casey was stuck training for a couple of days. I was lucky that I had sweet friends and family that made me feel very loved on a day when I felt very lonely.
It was probably the horror story of last year’s birthday but I was not at all looking forward to turning twenty-four. About a month ago, Casey told me that he wouldn’t be here, so I was definitely not looking forward to this birthday. You know, it is what it is and it’s not at all his fault, but I was bummed because two year in a row. Ugh.
In this week after, though, I have to say this birthday was far from the ugh I expected it to be.
You see, when you come to be as skeptical of birthdays as I am, you just brace for the worst. Don’t get excited about a day you can’t control becomes that mantra that makes it easier to enjoy. Anything that is positive in that case becomes a bonus. I’ve always jsut been okay with those bonuses.
Last Wednesday, I woke up to my wonderful Casey singing to me before he went to work in the morning (something stupid early like 440 AM, I’m sure, but I didn’t bother checking- I just rolled over and went back to sleep). I had taken the day off work, knowing that I wanted to indulge myself. With no alarm clock, I slept in, but was still up well before 7 AM. I had a slow morning of a delicious breakfast and a book that I was really enjoying while sitting out in the three-season room with Bo.
After breakfast, I headed to my usual Crossfit class at 8 AM. I was determined to do 24 pull ups at the end of class. I did. You see, I didn’t have any pull ups in February. Pull ups have always wanted to be a think I was good at. It’s just a movement that I’ve always really admired, even long before Crossfit was a thing I thought about. That I’ve been able to get pull-ups and do 24 is an accomplishment that I’m so proud of, even if I never told anyone about it. #MamaImadeit, for sure.
I headed home post-gym. This is where a normal day would have me rushing back to work. Instead, I got to spend some time cuddling with Bo while watching television, not a usual week-day indulgence for me. After some extensive cuddling and some time spent in silence enjoying some more of the fresh air, I headed out to meet friends Angie & Laura for lunch at the Fayetteville Pie Company, which is SO good.
After lunch, I got have some girl-time catching up with Angie before her family and my Casey joined us for burgers. It was a quiet birthday to say the least, but it was so wonderful. I felt so loved, which was more than I ever could have asked for.
So grateful for all the sweet birthday wishes yesterday. Can’t believe I’m closer to 25 than 21, but at least I’m not 25.
— Emilie Burke (@emilielimaburke) June 22, 2017
Will my perspective on birthdays change? Probably not, but I’m much more likely to give birthdays a chance now. Also, as an added bonus, this week I get to celebrate Casey’s birthday and I can’t wait!
Emilie is an Army Wife, Data Engineer, and CrossFitter with a love for working through her thoughts in this space on the internet. She lives with her husband Casey and their pup Bo in Savannah, GA.