Though another great part about birthdays is presents, the truth of the matter is they are the least important part once you reach a certain age. Instead of surprise flower deliveries and gift cards, it really is about one day a year when it's really easy to take inventory of the progress you've made, the people who helped you get there, and the gifts you've been given all year long.
Since turning 21, I graduated from college, got a job, navigated a transition into a new state where I knew no one, began to live alone, became more financially independent, and faced the ups and downs of daily life that came with it. And although I simply adore my birthday, I wouldn't have made it that far had I not gifted myself every now and again along the way. Here's some of the things I got:
The gift of... a tribe:
Because being away from family is hands down the hardest part about not living near home, I call my parents once a day. They are two of the prominent members of what my mom affectionately calls "Team Jordan." I am blessed that Team Jordan is comprised of strong, supportive, encouraging and overall wonderful people, including a healthy amount of women. I know they will cheer when I am close to the finish line, and allow me to cling to them when it seems too far away. My tribe spans the country, and for that I'm grateful. In other terms, those in your tribe are your people. They get you, they know you, and most of all, they want you to make it.
The gift of... clearing out your news feed:
Social media has its place, and I use it as a reporter probably more than most people do. But parts of it, like the Facebook news feed, can be dark places where loneliness manifests. If, for whatever reasons, you can't part ways with someone entirely on Facebook or Twitter, give yourself the gift of unfollowing the people you don't want to see updates from, hiding posts that you find annoying, muting Twitter accounts entirely, and simply making your news feeds only the most positive and comfortable places for you. You're not going to like everyone and you definitely won't like what everyone posts on social media. They have that right, and you have the right to mute them. You must justify it to no one.
The gift of... coffee and wine as you please:
Everything in moderation including moderation, as they say, but coffee and wine are two of the finer and more important things in life. Have them as you desire and as you deem necessary.
The gift of... indulging in being alone:
Living alone and working odd hours in a bureau office where some days I see a maximum of three people can be as isolating as it sounds. Of course making the best use of your free time as possible helps, but actually finding the enjoyment in being alone doesn't hurt either. For me, it's lighting candles, reading a ridiculous amount about the television industry, watching Food Network and Real Housewives (sue me), going to the pool, listening to This American Life, and on Sundays when I can, watching CBS Sunday Morning followed by Reliable Sources on CNN. Create the rituals. Love the rituals.
The gift of... owning your narrative:
Whenever I interview someone who has lost someone tragically, I tell them the same thing if they seem hesitant to go on camera with me: let investigators and law enforcement uncover the facts, let the court hearings display them. But talk to me and take back your narrative. Tell me something you want everyone to know about the person you lost because only you have the unique ability to do it. I feel as a reporter, it's a gift given to me to allow them to own their narrative -- to tell their story their own way. In far less extreme ways, we need to give this gift to ourselves daily. Don't let people who add little to your life contribute so greatly to your thoughts, feelings and narrative. It is, after all, yours.
If we laugh because our bodies simply cannot contain the joy, we surely dance and sing for similar reasons. It feels good to move your body! Dance in the car to the radio, even if it's silly. Dance in the street to a street performer and just enjoy that we are a species that understands, appreciates and MAKES MUSIC! Think about it!
The gift of... being open:
To people, experiences and places. To the old, new, unfamiliar and cozy. Let people in. Years will go by before you reunite with close friends for some reason, because this is the way life works. We get busy, we grow apart and our focus changes. But when these people come back, extend your arms so widely, undergo just a couple awkward moments while you try to get the tango in rhythm again, and savor how delicious it is when suddenly it's as if no time has passed at all. As I wrote in a recent story I did, for a group of people who shared a single moment in time, it's never too late to meet again. What a gift.
The gift of... celebrating the tiniest victories:
I think being on a deadline every day has made me think this way. I always subscribed to the belief we didn't quite celebrate everything enough, but being on deadline every day makes me realize I also meet those deadlines. We all juggle a lot in our lives and for the most part, rarely drop the ball. Often, the tiniest victories along the way are what pave way for the big ones to happen. So maybe we can keep champagne in the fridge just in case. And we shouldn't be afraid to pop it.
The gift of... amazing heels:
Ah. I'm not sure how to explain this one. It feels good. It feels good all day until it starts to hurt the underside of your toes and foot and ankle and everything is a painful blurry memory. But mostly, you are woman, hear you roar. In a pair of great shoes, you can attempt to and subsequently conquer the entire universe. Do not dare underestimate a gorgeous pair of shoes.
The gift of... getting better, not bitter:
Unfortunately people will hugely disappoint, disrespect and betray you. I subscribe to the belief people generally always do the very best they can. But that said, we are human, we make mistakes, and sometimes they come at the expense of others. Though there is a time for "I'm sorry," listening and moving on, there are other things you might find inexcusable. In all of these moments, it is a tremendous gift to allow yourself the opportunity to learn at least something from everyone who enters your life, no matter how disrespectfully they left. I promise you, it is extraordinarily brave to sincerely wish someone well and move on your merry way. You are responsible for no one's actions but yours, and at the end of the ordeal, if you're proud of the way you've conducted yourself, you'll be fine. It's one of the most motivating reasons to be kind, caring, compassionate, thoughtful and purely good to everyone who comes your way.
In the spirit of celebrations, I'll end with an edited excerpt of a post I wrote after New Years:
"Let's resolve to wake up every single day and decide to be just a little better ... to go to sleep every night counting blessings instead of worries. I hope you know many of you are the blessings I choose to count when my head hits the pillow. Tomorrow is always a brand new day. We'll do a lot better together then."
Thank you, thank you, thank you for continuing to make me the luckiest girl I know, for making this life so full of fun, and for choosing to join me in celebrating every tiniest thing.
You heard it here first,