Decisions is a series dedicated to the choices we make in our lives and the factors that led us to our given resolutions. We welcome guest posts to this series to hear about how you’ve tackled a life decision. Email your story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In today’s post, Meryl Williams explains why she took a full week to celebrate the big 3-0.
A Birthday Stay-cation
by Meryl Williams
Back in January, the moment I had a fresh year to plan time off from my day job, I asked for the week of my 30th birthday off. I unabashedly love my own birthday, but this was the first time I used vacation time for it. Thirty felt like a bigger deal than usual. I love my job and my company, and I know not everyone is in the position to take a week of vacation for a birthday, but getting the week off felt like a smart thing for me to do for several reasons.
Here’s what I wanted to do that week:
I’m lucky to get to write for my day job and for a slew of other websites and projects. However, this can often mean my writing for myself gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. I made it a priority to get some of my own writing done during my week off – like a writer’s retreat, but in my own city. Earlier this year I finished the first draft of a memoir about grief, loss, and roller derby. I’ve had some really great feedback from editors and beta readers, so even though it was daunting, I was eager to get started on draft #2.
I made some Skype dates with friends and family so we could catch up. Because I’m on the West Coast and so many of my loved ones are three hours ahead of me, it can be tough to find time to talk during the week. The day before my birthday, my brother called me via Google Hangouts but to my surprise, my dad, stepmom, aunt, uncle, nieces and cousin were on the call, too. I also scheduled some phone interviews for articles with a little more flexibility than usual, since I didn’t have to wait until my lunch break or until I was off work.
I’ve been in Portland for eight months, but I haven’t been out and about much this winter. The rainy season hit me a little harder than I expected it to, and it’s kept me indoors. But with a handful of weekdays off, I made it a point to get out and appreciate how lush and green Oregon is in the spring–thanks to the rain I’ve been quietly (and sometimes loudly) cursing since November. I want to make more of an effort to get to know my new-ish city better, and a week off was a great chance to take myself on some quiet nature walks in beautiful places like Forest Park in NW Portland.
While I left myself a bunch of less-than-fun errands to run (the kind of boring things that require weekdays, like going to DMV) I also made sure I took care of myself with my extra time. I made myself get up and go to the gym, which is deserted on weekday afternoons, and made time for hanging out with friends, like seeing a movie on a weeknight. I also treated myself to some blackberry apple pie from Random Order for breakfast the morning of my birthday, which counteracted one of those gym trips, but still felt important to do right then.
The night before my birthday, I stayed up late making notes about what I want from my life and also about how far I’ve come. When the clock hit midnight, I breathed in and out and said “thank you” out loud. I didn’t really know who I was talking to, but I just said it over and over and teared up. It was so important to stop and feel fully how lucky I’ve been in the first 30 years of my life.
I am pumped for 30 and excited to see where this next decade takes me!
Meryl Williams is a Portland-based writer working on a collection of essays about learning to play roller derby. If you want to see more of her writing, sign up for The Sleeper Hit newsletter or find her on Twitter (@merylwilliams).
All photos by Samantha Matthews