I was visiting family in California to celebrate my birthday. I was alone and had been sitting on a bench on a pier where I was watching happy people surf and boogie-board with their dads. Girls and boys were being taught how to ride a wave—something that terrifies me. They were smiling and laughing when they crashed…while I sat crying.
Crying pretty hard, too.
Then I got up off the bench and went to some nearby shops. While trying to forget about my strife, I saw a sign in one store that immediately lifted my spirits:
PUT YOUR “BIG GIRL” PANTIES ON AND DEAL WITH IT!
How unbelievably fitting. I cracked up. Everyone in the store stopped to stare at me.
What was I dealing with that caused this huge reflective cry on the pier? Well, it was my birthday. My family was in major conflict—the “let’s argue until our faces turn blue” kind. They didn’t think they were, but the tension had built up so much that I couldn’t even enjoy this day that I’ve hated ever since my fifth-grade birthday, this day that I decided that I would finally enjoy and embrace because it was mine.
Turning 31 was a big emotional conflict for me. I know it’s young, but everyone has something that stings them. So I decided that to get through birthday #31 I would take charge and own every piece of it, enjoy every second of it.
I wound up not enjoying very much of that day, but I loved seeing that sign. I thought about my niece and how she’s potty training. She just got “big girl underwear” with little princesses all over it. She is trying so hard to remember to go to the potty so she doesn’t get those princesses dirty. She runs to the bathroom every five minutes just in case. But accidents happen. She gets upset, but after a good cry she puts on a clean pair of big-girl panties and deals with it.
She’s two; I’m 31. I realized then that I had my cry on the pier so now it was time to deal with it. I walked back to my brother’s place, put on some calming essential oils, played with my beautiful nephew, and did my best to block out all of the other crap. After all, he’s three months shy of two years old, so he’s getting ready for “big boy underwear.”
I wish I could say that blocking out all of the other crap helped ease my frustration and sadness on my birthday. It didn’t, but I dealt with it. I took my own breaks, went for walks, did some deep breathing, and never applied so much essential oil in my life.
It did get better the next day. I called my best friend who’d had a pretty shitty 31st birthday the month before. We decided right then that we can’t look back and remember 31 this way. So we booked a trip to our favorite place with our favorite memories. Penn State, here we come! Thirty-first birthday redo—YES, PLEASE!
Moral of the story: You have the power to find an alternative to bad situations. You have a CHOICE. Yes, our choices are not always great ones, but the simple fact that you get an option is a victory in itself.