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.

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