Friday, June 10, 2011

Day 365: The Bittersweet End

On Day 365, I woke up as a 30-year old.

As suspected, I didn't look or feel any different than I did the day before, except for the fact that I hardly slept and was so nervous I wanted to throw up.

I might've assumed I was having a physical reaction to my thirties, but I knew why I couldn't sleep and why my insides were turning over and it didn't have anything to do with getting older. The tossing and turning and nerves were because of Day 365's thing that I've never done before: to join a popular radio show to talk about Project 29 to 30.

Sometime around January of 2010 (about 100 days in), I sent Jenn Hobby, co-host of the Bert Show, an email telling her about Project 29 to 30. She and I share a mutual friend (John) and I thought she might think the idea was cool. What exactly I wanted from her and the show I wasn't sure, and I didn't exactly say it in the email. They had an intern at the time who was aspiring to dance 100 days in a row and I thought maybe I could join her. But obviously I was up for anything at that point, and with the help of their listeners I knew they could come up with some great ideas.

Best case scenario, I thought, she would love the idea, love me and I'd become a regular, "girl trying new things," segment on the show. A win-win for us both. Worst case scenario, they'd never respond and I'd be no worse off than I was when I started. I'd never know if I didn't ask, though, so I did.

Within a day, Jenn responded and told me that she loved the idea. She said she'd share it with the others and see if she could make something work out. I was elated. A few days after that, the show's producer, Tracey, emailed me and asked me for my phone number. I emailed her back and checked my phone like a psycho waiting for a guy to call me.

I waited and waited, but just like the guys who have taken my number and never called, I never heard from Tracey.

My friend Emily, a big Bert Show fan, followed up with an email on my behalf, but still nothing. I know that many times in situations like this, persistence is the way to go, but I also find there is a fine line between being persistent and being annoying. And I didn't want to cross that line. Plus, I had a blog to write and new things to do, so I just let it go.

I forgot about the show until I was listening to them one morning do a segment that was so terrible, I htought, "My idea is way better than this!" Clearly they were at one time interested in it, so I emailed Tracey one more time, told her that my birthday was a month away and that I'd love their help thinking of new things to do.

And just like that, she called. We played phone tag a few times, but when we finally connected, she suggested that I come in studio on the morning of my birthday at around 9am.


Emily, who had already taken the day off from school to recover from the weekend, offered to come with me and to drive us to the station, which is in an office building north of Atlanta. But since I was a ball of nervous energy, I told her I'd prefer driving so that I would at least have something else to focus on.

I was a complete spaz, though, and we passed the building a few times before pulling in. I'd already put my phone on silent, but Tracey had been calling me wanting to know if I was still coming. We finally arrived and after sitting silent in the waiting room, Producer Tracey came out to get us.

The co-hosts of the show are local celebrities in Atlanta, so I knew what they looked like, so there wasn't the, "Oh, YOU'RE Bert?! I thought you'd look different!" What was odd, was shaking their hands as if we were strangers; I was definitely a stranger to them, but since the show can get quite personal, I knew quite a few details about each of them. I'm sure they're quite used to this, but I felt creepy asking Jenn about her wedding or Tracey about her infant daughter.

While Emily and I were standing outside the studio waiting to go in, the host of the show, Bert, teased my segment saying something to the effect of, "Stephanie just did 364 things and one of the last things on her bucket list was to meet the cast of the Bert Show. We'll talk to her next."

I work in media, and I understand the art of a good tease, but I was a little confused as to how they got "bucket list," and, "wanting to meet the cast of the Bert Show," from the correspondence we'd had. Now everyone thinks I'm some obsessed radio show fan. Let's be clear, if I did have a bucket list, the only "must meet" people on it would be Paula Deen or Kelly Ripa.

As much as I wanted to clarify, I decided to let it go. I refused to get caught up in the details. I was about to be on the radio.

When I walked into the studio, I noticed first how small the room is. The show was in a commercial break, so everyone was sort of chilling out and doing their own thing. I was in the next segment, so they showed me my seat, gave me a headset and showed me the microphone that I was supposed to talk into.

I sat to the right of Jenn, and she and I started talking about her guest spot on Live with Regis and Kelly (amazing, so jealous). She started asking me about the blog and then she stopped herself, and "Wait, I'm sorry. Let me hear about it with everyone else."

I've heard that on radio shows and television shows that they refrain from a lot of pre-interviews so as not to ruin the conversation on air. If Jenn and I had this conversation now, then having it again minutes later might sound a little forced.

Coming out of the break, Bert welcomed me to the show and he asked me to talk about the blog and I went for it. Emily said she tried to take pictures of me, but I was talking with my hands so much that it was hard to get a good one.

I hesitate to say, "radio is easy," because I was there for less than ten minutes, but the whole segment went by so fast. The co-hosts were friendly and engaging and since they're all right there in the room, it felt like I was just having a conversation with them. After my initial nerves calmed down, I forgot that I was talking on the radio.

Though I don't think my blog is terribly controversial, or worthy of further discussion, part of me hoped they would take calls from listeners. I really wanted someone to call in and say something hateful like, "You've got a lot of nerve, Stephanie."

But they didn't, and before I knew it, someone brought in a beautiful birthday cake and the segment was over.

I can't even tell you all that we talked about, because it all went by so fast. Even as I walked out of the show, I looked at Emily and said, "Did that just happen? What did I say?"

The whole segment is still on their website and you can listen here.

After we left the Bert Show and headed back to Emily's, I felt so jacked up, like I could've lifted my car or run a marathon. It was so much fun and such a perfect way to end the year of doing things I'd never done before. It sure didn't hurt that my cell phone immediately started blowing up with sweet phone calls and emails from my parents, friends and colleagues all telling me that I did a great job. And, no surprise, my blog was never more popular. The Bert Show bump is for real.

Since Trish (just one month into motherhood) couldn't make it to the birthday weekend, she offered to take me to lunch on my birthday. Emily and Kyle were off work too, so we all met at Henri's for two of my favorite things: sandwiches and gossip.

Emily offered to let me leave my car at her house so she could drive us, and we stayed well over an hour just catching up. Little did I know that when everyone abruptly said we had to go was because there was another surprise in store for me back at Emily's.

Her offer to drive to lunch was not simply a nice gesture, but actually premeditated move, orchestrated by our friend Lisa, who on my birthday, avenged the Valentine's Day prank Elizabeth and I played on her with a little prank of her own.

When we turned the corner down to Emily's house, all I could see were balloons tied to the top of my car, which was covered in paint, fake mustaches, and even a cougar tail. I know I overuse this word a lot when I'm speaking, but it was hilarious. She did such a good job and pulled off the greatest prank. Nine months later, after several washes, there are still flecks of paint on my windows.

We stood around laughing and taking pictures for a while and Lisa declared a truce. I'm not so sure either of us is going to stick to that but I agreed for the time being.

Not quite ready to head home, and unable to convince anyone to come out with me for another night of celebrating, I spent the rest of the night at Trish's house, drinking wine and talking. Not exactly a raucous birthday celebration, but exactly what I needed.

I could end this with a lot of sappy reflection about age and say all of the right things about how age is just a number and you're only as old as you feel. I do believe all of those things, and from where I sit, it's difficult even at age 30, to look at my life and feel anything but great.

But to be honest, I still freak about getting older. Less so because I feel old and am worried that I'm not where I should be at this age; more because I know how much the world has to offer. How will I ever find enough time (and money) to do it all?

I still struggle with the unknown and I worry, despite truly believing, "All who wander are not lost," that the only true obstacle holding me back from getting what I want is my inability to identify what that is. But with each day and each new experience, I think I'm getting closer to defining what success and happiness is for me.

This blog hasgiven me an outlet for which to share my joy and my sorrow, something that strangely, does bring me much happiness. What that means for the future, I'm not really sure.

But I have enjoyed this ride so very much.

To Mo and to Lauren, who tirelessly edited versions of these entries that were all over the place and filled with typos, it's OVER! WE did it. Thank you. Seriously. What a shitty job. Thank you times a million.

To my parents, I'm pretty sure "blogger" wasn't exactly what you meant when you said I could be anything I wanted to be, but thanks for always supporting my adventurous spirit. I am who I am because of you, and I'm sorry for the times when that's not a positive thing.

To everyone who participated in this blog, read it, commented on it, stuck with it despite it taking me so long to finish, there will never be the appropriate words for me to thank you enough for making me what I always wanted to be. A writer.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Day 364: Happy Freaking Birthday to Me

I woke up on Day 364 to the sound of productivity in the living area of Grouper Therapy.

Like the seasoned professionals they are, my mom and her friend Ellen had come over early to gather all of the various things they'd brought over to the house for the dinner party and to clean the house as well as they would've if they were cleaning their own. I may have been a day away from turning 30, but my mom was still treating me like a child, certain that I wouldn't have done as good of a job as she did with the sorting and the cleaning. Under any other circumstances, I would've been bothered by the fact that she sometimes finds me completely incapable. On this particular day, however, I was just fine with it.

We had to check out of the house by noon so that the real cleaning crew could come in and get the house ready for the next guests. I did my part, carrying things from one side of the room to the next and overall keeping my personal cleaning crew entertained with stories from the night before that happened after they left.

After all the furniture had been returned to its correct spot, the beds were stripped, and I'd packed all of the luggage I'd brought (and there was a lot), I gave an appreciative head nod to Grouper Therapy, thanking it for allowing me to make many memories there, and crossing my fingers that we hadn't done any permanent damage to the place.

After dropping the key off at the realty company, I headed downtown with Lauren to meet a group for lunch. After we ate and shared many a laughs (again), I said good-bye to my mom and Mark and Jen, and then per her request, I took Lauren on a mini-tour of downtown Charleston.

If you've talked to me for an hour, or read this blog at all, you know I've had a love affair with Charleston that has been going on for quite a while; yet for some reason, I always get nervous sharing it with people who have never been there, fearing that I may have oversold it. What if the person I'm showing it to isn't that impressed and they feel like they have to fake interest just to spare my feelings? Awkward.

Luckily, Lauren seemed sincerely impressed by my favorite city as I walked her through Waterfront Park and then down to the Battery. It was a beautiful day. Hot, but beautiful.

I didn't really have a tour mapped out, so we just walked and I tried to drop some of the historical knowledge on Lauren ("There's Fort Sumter! Where the Civil War started!")

As we made our way back to Market Street, we saw a group of tourists take a right into a grave site with historical markers and we followed them. As we roamed through the grave markers, I laughed thinking about my friend Jen, who used to tell anyone getting bent out of shape about their birthday, "Well if you weren't getting older, then it would mean you're dead." She was right - there are far worse things than being 30. Being dead is just one of them.

While walking through the Charleston market, where we ran into Amanda and Stephen, we stopped for a drink and then I drove Lauren to the airport. I hugged her tightly goodbye and then drove away, my destination unknown.

I considered jumping on the interstate and heading back to Atlanta, but for some reason, I just wasn't ready to go. I just couldn't leave the beach. So I just drove around the city, by the house that I used to live in and by the health club where I used to work. Finally alone with my own thoughts for the first time in three days, I realized I still hadn't done anything I'd never done before (besides see John Rutledge's grave), and I panicked.

Really, Stephanie? One day to go and nothing planned?

Ahead of the birthday trip to Folly Beach, an old friend from college, now a Charleston resident, reached out to me and suggested that I paint the Folly Beach Boat as something I'd never done before. The Folly Beach Boat is an abandoned boat that washed ashore after Hurricane Hugo in 1989. No one ever claimed the boat, so it stayed, right there on the side of the road. A year after the hurricane, someone painted a message on the boat and ever since, others have followed suit, leaving behind birthday and anniversary messages for their friends and family. I've driven past the boat hundreds of times on my way out to the beach, and I absolutely loved the idea.

Unfortunately, as we all know, planning and executing are not my strong suits. I never really put forth any effort to get the Birthday Party Crew in on this, and since we were very busy with the responsibilities of the weekend like eating and drinking and relaxing, I never got around to it. By the time I remembered the great idea, in my car panicking, everyone was already on their way back home.

I took a few deep breaths and tried to channel the brave girl who started this insane task back on September 27, 2009, and I drove to Wal-Mart, picked up two cans of spray paint, and went back to the boat, by myself, to make Day 364's thing I've never done before to wish myself a happy birthday on the Folly Beach Boat.

On the way over to the boat with my two cans of spray paint, I started thinking, a little too deeply, about what a full circle moment this would be to paint a message to myself. I was brainstorming ideas of clever sayings to put on the boat, and coming up with some pretty awesome rhymes. I was really excited.

Only when I got there, I saw that some woman named Laura's friends had already been there, writing "Thirty-Forty-Fifty, Laura is now Sixty. We Love our Old Bird." My rhymes were way better than that, but their mural was quite colorful and there was a picture of a bird next to it, as well as the words, "Love U Nana."

There are no rules about how long messages have to be left on the Folly Boat before someone else can come and paint over it, so if I wanted to ruin Laura's message with my own, I could have. But whoever painted the message to Laura had taken a lot of time to do it, and I just couldn't justify ruining their artwork with my two cheap cans of spray paint.

Plus, when I reread the words, "Thirty-Forty-Fifty," somehow turning 30 didn't seem so monumental anymore.

I stood there for a minute, cars whizzing by me, unsure of what to do next. Then, without really thinking, I walked around to the back of the boat, to an area that's hardly visible to anyone driving by; I popped the lid off the red spray paint can, and painted, simply, "Happy Birthday Steph."

A birthday wish to myself.

I grabbed the light blue can and painted a little lame flower next to my happy birthday message, and then I got in my car and I drove away, unsure if anyone would ever see the message.

Indeed, it became a full circle moment.

When I started writing this blog, I called it, "my birthday present to myself." For me, it was an opportunity to challenge myself and do things that I'd never done and get back into writing like I'd always wanted to. I'd hoped, but wasn't at all confident, that anyone would ever read it.

Taking that risk, exposing myself has further solidified what I already knew: the best things in life aren't things.

In fact, the best presents are sometimes the ones that challenge us to think about our lives in a different way; the ones that demand us to recognize the wonderful people we've invited to share our journey, and the ones that force us to see the beauty that's all around us. This project did that. I would leave my twenties humbled by the many blessings in my life, and eager for the next chapter, whatever it might hold. There are days when this "present" to myself felt more like a curse. But I know now what I'm capable of, and it's far greater, so much sweeter, than I could've imagined.

That's the real payoff. The fact that so many others connected to my words, or were amused by them or inspired by them has been more than I could've ever hoped for.

I'd like to think though, that like the private birthday message I wrote on the Folly Beach Boat that day, that even if I knew no one would ever see it, I would've written it anyway. Sometimes the best gifts are the ones we give ourselves.

Happy Birthday to me.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Day 363: Thankfully Surprised

I woke up on Day 363 feeling a bit groggy.

Groggy? Who am I kidding?

I was hung-over something fierce. And I had Trey, my dad, and all of the other drink pushers in my life to thank for that, I suppose. My night ended with me skipping down the streets of Folly Beach while holding my birthday balloons, wearing a Viking helmet, and starting a dance party.

Despite the late night, I was up early, too excited (or too old) to sleep in. When I emerged from my cave of a room to find both Emilys and Mark and Jen sitting together in the living room, I smiled, thankful for these people who were in my life.

If the word for Day 362 was, "overwhelmed," then Day 363's word was "thankful."

I wasn’t thankful for everything. Like the raging headache I had. Even I, who has managed to be sappy about the most mundane activities (wine party, anyone?), can't find a way to be thankful about a hangover, but knowing that the reason I felt so bad is because I had so much fun the night before made the headache worth it. And I knew there was more fun and more people on the way.

I was (and still am) a very lucky girl.

After breakfast, and a riveting conversation about Quinoa with Jen (What is it? Where can I get it? Is it hard to make? What is it for real?), we headed to the beach. Again, I felt immense gratitude for the gorgeous weather, the sand between my toes, and the fact that I had nothing else to do but drink cold beers and bask in the glory of the day.

I was thankful that even with my worlds colliding right there on Folly Beach, that "Freak Out Steph," was nowhere to be found. Everyone was getting along, no one was revealing any of my dark secrets to the other, my friends really like each other.

I was thankful that everyone managed to feed themselves for lunch without me (despite my mom emailing me incessantly that I should at least offer my guests something.) I'm not a planner, what can I say?

I was mostly thankful that my co-workers, who had driven into town with a car that read, "Class of 2014 Fall Break," written on it, did not force me to dress in costume like they had forced our friend Devon, complete with fake mustaches, sombreros and mesh shirts.

The greatest thing about a beach party is that the entertainment is built in, and people could come and go as they pleased. There were football games on all day, so every hour, we'd lose someone to the house to check scores. Some of my friends with kids brought them early, wore them out and were ready to leave by mid-afternoon. Others, like Julie and Sean, drove up from Florida and arrived right when the sun was starting to set.

Not too long after they got there, I looked towards the oceanfront houses and saw Jeremiah and Lucia, my friends from Nashville, walking through the beach access towards us.

"Hey," I said, while waving, like it was completely normal for me to see them.


There was hugging, there may have been squealing as I tried, and failed, to hide my shock and excitement as various phrases came spewing from my mouth.




They made a last minute, spontaneous decision to come and drove all day to get there, just to be at the party. They'd have to get up early the next morning and drive all the way back. Most people would've said they were crazy to make such an effort, but these are the kind of choices that Project 29 to 30 is all about.

Drive 16 hours to party for five? Ok!

Again, overwhelmed. And completely thankful that these are the kinds of people I have in my life. We enjoyed the last few moments of sun before reluctantly schlepping back to the house.

Grouper Therapy was already buzzing with activity when we returned. Football was on TV, appetizers were on the table, and those who didn't make it to the beach had started to arrive for dinner. Emily was cheering Alabama on to victory (in a very close game), Danielle and Scott's kids were getting acquainted and chasing each other around the house, my mom and her friend Ellen were hard at work in the kitchen, prepping for the buffet.

Adam had brought the shrimp over from Day 361's outing, making Day 363's thing I've never done before was to eat food that I actually caught. My dad and his friend Wally and my brother's friend Trey had already started the Lowcountry boil underneath the house.

Everywhere I turned, there were things going on, and I did my best to soak it all up.

I thought that the surprises would end with Jeremiah and Lucia's arrival to the beach, but as the night progressed, there were more. Perhaps the day's other word, in addition to thankful, should be "surprises."

My sister-in-law Katie surprised me by decorating the kitchen with pictures of me when I was a child model (yeah, that's right, I was a child model, of the "JC Penny Easter fashion show" variety) and made a poster with pictures from the blog.

She and Emily were also cohorts in a Project 29 to 30 trivia game where guests had to answer questions about my life based on how it was written in the blog. I was shocked at how well my friends did. I thought my parents were the only ones who knew me so well.

Mo, Justin, and Devon gave me a wicker box full of random items that turned into a game for me. I had to dig through each of the items and explain how they related to Project 29 to 30. I wrote the damn thing, and I was surprised at how many of them I had to stop and think about. Thanks to this very generous gift, I am now the proud owner of my very own set of Tarot cards, a box of Dryel, and red nail polish.

My mom surprised me with an extremely special gift, a necklace that was hers back in the 1970s that I repeatedly tried to steal when I was in college and would come home for breaks. After all of these years and failed attempts, she finally let me have it. To go with the $7 wooden necklace, she gave me a beautiful gold bracelet that should I ever grow up, has my thirties written all over it.

Amanda surprised me, again, with her ability to dress fashionably even when the odds are stacked against her. She realized on her way out of town that she'd left her hanging bag in Atlanta, so was forced to go to Cato Women's Fashions on James Island to purchase something to wear (Charleston is full of hip boutiques, but Folly Beach is not). She knocked it out of the park, per usual.

I surprised myself with my ability to shotgun a beer (wait, make that "inability") and to imitate Antoine Dodson of, "Hide your kids, hide your wife," fame.

I remain eternally grateful for life's many surprises.

At some point, right before the birthday cake, I made some awkward remarks thanking everyone for coming and thanking them for their support. I'm usually pretty good at public speaking and speeches of this nature, but fumbled over myself; I couldn't quite put how I was feeling into words. Even now, all these months later, I'm finding it hard to articulate exactly how it felt to be surrounded by so many people who love me and to be given so many generous gifts. Overwhelming, certainly. And, as much as I hate to say it, I found the whole experience quite embarrassing as well.

Strange that I could feel embarrassed over a party that I'd planned for myself. It's not as if I didn't know I'd have to publicly thank my guests at some point. Yet as I stood there, in front of everyone staring at me, I really wished that we were celebrating someone else. Celebrating other people's good news comes very easy to me. I feel like an old pro. Celebrating my own is another story.

When we are children, even the smallest milestones are all celebrated with thunderous applause and paparazzi style photo shoots. I've even seen babies, likely mimicking those around them, even clap for themselves after crawling across the room. But as adults, most of us work hard to fade into the background, hoping that our accomplishments will go unnoticed, for fear, I suppose, that if we called attention to them and to ourselves, that we might seem self-centered or boastful.

Thanks to two very centered parents who taught me from a very young age that I am not, nor will I ever be, the center of the universe, I'd like to think I'm a humble person. But this birthday was, this year had been, in the words of our Vice President, a "big fucking deal," for me. I'd done something big. These people who had flown and driven in from out of town standing in front of me eating Lowcountry boil understood that. Why was I so tongue-tied in front of them?

While I'm forever grateful that I took on this project to do a new thing everyday, and writing about my life, I did, over the course of entire year, become the most self-centered version of myself. Focusing on writing and checking things off my bucket list often came ahead of nurturing relationships. I put me first, even when it felt unnatural and in many ways, this party, that I threw for myself, was a culmination of just that. And it embarrassed me that these people who I'd used, and sometimes abused, for my own project were standing there supporting me anyway.

Plus, having all eyes on me, reacting to everything I said and every move I made, for an entire weekend was unnerving, and isn't the kind of attention I crave. There were times when I felt like a pinball bouncing around trying to keep everyone entertained and happy, and I worried that I wouldn't spend enough quality time with any one person in order to give them the sincere thank you that they deserved.

I suppose in many ways, too, I celebrated myself all year long, breaking away from the mundane and saying, "Yes!" to new experiences. The party felt like the very rich icing on an already very rich cake. Saying the right words to the people who made it possible felt like an impossible task.

Somewhere in the gray area between a self important bad-ass attitude and the demure fading into the background approach to life is a place where being proud of ourselves and celebrating our own triumphs is an acceptable thing to do. I'm still struggling with that gray, too, I guess, but I hope someday I find it.

After all, if we don't celebrate our own milestones in life, then who will?

Maybe my next celebration won't involve a boozy beach party; I'm already looking forward to more low key parties in the future. But I'd like to think that with each passing year, I'll find a way to acknowledge that I am another year wiser, with a year's worth of new experiences, complete with successes and failures to add to the memory pile.

Even if it's just a toast of cheap champagne to say, "Cheers! I'm still here! I'm still alive!"

And it is a big fucking deal.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Day 362: An Overwhelming Celebration

The best part about spending an entire year trying new things is that I turned 30 with enough adventures to fill several novels, and a long list of things I hoped to try again for a second and third time.

On that list, among others: play golf with my dad and brother whenever they invite me, eat burrata in San Francisco (and anywhere else I can find it), visit Greece in the summer (and winter, spring and fall too). These are things I want to do for the rest of my life, and there are at least a hundred more.

Day 362's thing I've never done before, plan my own birthday party, falls on the other list of things I plan on never doing again (along with Haunted Houses, juice diets and green tea lattes).

Don't get me wrong, my beach weekend-long party was full of fun and laughs and great friends and good times, but the weeks leading up to it were so full of stress and anxiety and bad feelings about myself that I'd be an idiot to ever knowingly take it on again.

I've had a lot of great birthday parties over the years, so thanks to family and friends, the bar had been set pretty high. My mom planned a scavenger hunt when I was 11, and a camp out sleepover when I was 13, and my friends planned a pub crawl for my 21st. I wasn't on some quest to make up for years of sucky birthdays. In fact, knowing what I know now, I probably should've let those same people plan my 30th.

But after a year of living my life on my own terms and accomplishing my challenging project, throwing my own celebration just seemed like the right thing to do. At first, I was really excited about it. I went into the planning with high hopes and super high expectations, thinking that the greatest part about throwing my own party was that I would get to decide where and when to have the party, what to eat at the party, and who to invite to the party. For control freaks and people who enjoy planning, it's a dream come true. For someone like me, being in control of all these decisions was like a nightmare.

First, I agonized about where to have it. Since most of my friends live in either Georgia or South Carolina, having it in either one of those states made sense, but it also meant that half of them would have to travel out of town. What tipped the scales for South Carolina was my beloved Charleston and the beach. The weather was completely suitable to have an all-day beach day on Saturday and a cookout, football-watching party at night. Most of my friends in Atlanta are beach-lovers and certainly wouldn't mind traveling if their destination involved day-drinking at the shore. A fall birthday beach party was right up my alley.

Taking a page from my friend Lindsay's 30th birthday playbook, I also suggested a place for everyone to meet for dinner on Friday night. There was the typical back and forth internal dialogue (Where should we have dinner? Will everyone like Taco Boy? Can we make reservations? What if there aren't enough tables?), but I did my best to be completely different from how I normally am, and not obsess. It wasn't easy.

Renting a house was the next hurdle, a task so frustrating to me I finally called my mom in a fit of panic and begged her to take it on. She happily agreed to help, but it wasn't long before the back and forth between rental companies about prices and 3-night minimums and check-in times, was making her as crazy as it had been making me. When she finally did find one that fit all of our criteria, she sent me the link and I had to agree it was exactly what we were looking for. But even then, I still refused to pull the trigger. My mom knows my tendency to be indecisive, but this was even bad for me.

The angst over the house came in part because of invitation process, which turned out to be the worst part about throwing my own birthday party. I aimed high and invited nearly everyone I'd ever met in my life, which was ambitious, but also obnoxious. And when I still managed to leave people out, I ended up hurting people unnecessarily, a fact that I sincerely regret. Forgetting to invite people was only the tip of the iceberg of hurt feelings, though.

In that regard, maybe karma was proving it's alive and well, because when I sent the Evite declaring that the party was really happening, the enthusiasm garnered from the pre-emptive email I sent in July about the party was non-existent.

My concerns about not finding a house big enough for all of the people who were going to come were soon replaced with concerns that there wasn't going to be anyone to put in the house at all.

Even some of my closest friends who at one time were excited about the party were, for various reasons, responding, "no." Or worse, they were responding, "maybe." Work, weddings, family commitments are all valid reasons for missing a 30th birthday out-of-town birthday party, but I couldn't help but feel disappointed when I would obsessively check the Evite to see who had and hadn't responded.

Being noncommittal is a part of the digital age that we live in, (The Wall Street Journal wrote an article about it), but always a lover of classics, it's not one that I think I'll ever get used to. This little birthday party became an exercise in decoding what the Evite responses meant. "No" apparently still means "no," but "yes" could mean "maybe." "Maybe" could mean, "I'm really trying, but there is a chance that it might not work out," but it most likely means, "no," or "I'm waiting to see if something better comes along."

I hate the word, "maybe."

I blame myself for setting unrealistic expectations, and for thinking that reaching this milestone meant as much to everyone else as it did to me.

What's worse is that by focusing on the 22 "maybes," 38 "no's," and 66 "not yet replied" people in my life, I all but completely ignored the 48 "yeses."

My reaction, that I'm completely ashamed of, reminded me of the book class I had taken with Hollis Gillespie when I told her I'd fallen in love when I hadn't. As if 365 new things, other things, weren't enough, I looked her in the eye and lied about the one thing that I hadn't done. Here I was, with almost 50 people coming from far and wide to celebrate me and my achievement and I was pissing and moaning about those who couldn't.

My, I thought at one point, look how far I haven't come.

With the help of my very grounded mother who doesn't tolerate such bratty behavior and the palpable enthusiasm of those who were coming, any self-pity I might've been feeling was quickly, and quite fortunately, replaced with my own excitement.

I woke up Friday morning after shrimping feeling anxious, knowing that I was just hours away from my worlds colliding.

Adam and I grabbed lunch at Papa ZuZu's on Mt. Pleasant, and toasted our upcoming birthdays with drinks at lunch. So we tried a Greek beer, Alfa. The beer was nondescript, really, but kicked off a plethora of new drinks to add to my repertoire as the other things I'd never done before on Day 362.

The best way that I can describe the next few days is to call them, "overwhelming." As friends from near and far descended on Folly Beach, any feelings of disappointment felt like a faint memory.

To look around around the room at Taco Boy and see my mom talking to one of my best friends from high school and one of my best friends from college at the same time, while watching my Dad (yes, my dad) forcing "Crown Hotel" shots on several of my colleagues dressed in costume is a lot of things, but most of all it's overwhelming. Like in the best way.

To have my brother's best friend Trey order me a shot of jalapeno tequila that he said would change my life while watching a waitress bringing over a tray full of margaritas for everyone at the party bought by my friend Kyle in Atlanta, since she couldn't be there, is many wonderful things, but most of all, it's overwhelming.

Feel overwhelmed by the love of the people in my life: I think I'll add that to the list of things I'd like to do again.

Thanks to fabulous turnout of people that showed up to the party, I was unable to tag everyone individually. I'm instead tagging all of you, "Birthday Party Crew." Thanks again for helping me celebrate.