This past Sunday was my 33rd birthday. As I sit here typing this, reflecting on this birthday and comparing it to those of years past (because that’s what we do as adults, right?!), I’m surrounded by brightly colored cards that say things like, “It’s Your Birthday!” and “Have your cake and eat it too.” One of them, an orange card with a sparkly blue cupcake on the front of it, reads, “Birthdays just aren’t as big a deal as they were when we were kids…”

Yikes. That’s the cold honest truth, right? I’m getting older, and it’s just another year, right?

Shiny Hats and Cake for Days

When I was younger, particularly in grade school, I’d have a big party for my birthday in my parents’ backyard or at a local restaurant, and I’d invite everyone from my class. Even if we’d only worked together on one subtraction worksheet, or shared a seat on the bus to the class field trip months earlier and then never talked again, that person was invited.

It’d be a day of singing, games and wearing a shiny gold paper birthday hat. I’d indulge in pizza, ice cream, and too much candy, and open way too many presents. It was too much sugar, too much food, and too many presents for one child. But that was the point. Too much was the point.

As I got older, the number of invitees was smaller, and there were less presents, but there were sleepovers with my friends where we’d pile into someone’s parents’ basement. Armed with Pepsi, Doritos, movie theatre butter popcorn, Oreos and Chips Ahoy, Skittles, peanut M&M’s, and several more varieties of candy and cookies, we’d watch romantic comedies and dance to 90’s pop songs until the early hours of the morning. There was too much food, too much sugar, and too little sleep.

Eventually, I’d arrived at the rite of passage birthday of 21, and spent my birthday donning a white and pink sash and accepting free tequila shots and cranberry vodkas from strangers while dancing at all of the bars in Rehoboth Beach. I spent the next day nursing my hangover by downing Bud Lights and eating way too many French fries under an umbrella on the sand.

When Too Much Isn’t Enough

At some point in my late 20s, I got tired of too much. The food comas, the stomach aches, the hangovers, and the exhaustion that followed a birthday of too much lasted longer than the celebration, and these symptoms were putting a black cloud over my birthday.

It took until my early 30s, to this birthday in 2018, to realize that what I wanted for my birthday was to experience all of my favorite things. A day, and a weekend, filled with my favorite activities, my favorite foods, and my favorite people. It mattered more who was there and what I ate, rather than how many or how much.

So it was yoga outside, running on my favorite trail, the best avocado toast I’ve ever had, and pesto parmesan pizza with my preferred IPA, and hours of conversation with my family and best friends.

What I was really exercising was the lesson of quantity over quality, and at the age of 33, I’m proud to say that I chose quality.