Compare and Contrast

Last year I had one of the best birthdays of my entire adult life. I would like to say “the very best,” but I feel like maybe I’m not remembering all of them, and I love birthdays so I also can’t remember any bad ones. 

One year as a not-adult, my brother knocked his teeth out at daycare, and I came home to find him watching Disney movies, from inside a fort of his own presents. We went to Chi Chi’s and everything was fine until I had to wear the “house sombrero” before I could blow the candle out on the rapidly melting fried ice cream. But I was 13, so that birthday had a lot more potential for disaster. 

My mom dabbled in cake decorating for a while, and I got the better end of that time period than my brother, who either wasn't old enough or wasn't born yet to remember any of her work with icing. There was a ballerina cake that matched my jewelry box, a Rose Petal Place cake for my dolls, and a several more all photographed for posterity in my “Kate’s Birthdays” photo album back home. 

There are 2.9 bazillion photos of me as a child, and only 37 photos of my brother. (Not that anyone but my mom has counted.)

I went to California last year to be alone. To sit with things and feel the feelings that I had, not pinch the ones I didn’t like back under my skin. I knew what I was getting myself into and I knew that my birthday was part of it. That I ran a big risk of spending it all by myself in a studio apartment, eating peanut butter M&Ms and watching a Vanderpump Rules marathon. 

Instead, I went hiking. I bought juice and I saw the ocean and I hung out with friends in a basement bar, wearing a tan and a wide, open-mouth smile. 

I honestly can’t tell if it’s the lack of expectations or the actual events that were the key to success. There’s much I still have to learn about how to just do whatever the fuck I was going to do anyway and bank on others catching up. About how to only want the ones who catch up, that there are those who will. 

Today at the studio, one of the students told me about her injury and how she constantly compares what she could do in class last year with what she can’t do now.

“Oh, you can’t compare it. Then everything just feels terrible,” I said. 

It happens when you’re not looking for it. You look for it all the time. Stop comparing the years. You search through all 2.9 bazillion photos for evidence of happiness. Which cake was my favorite? All of them because then I wasn’t thinking about hanging on to this one “because what if the next one sucks?” 

This year, this day, today, I’m going to hang out with my brother, because that is what I actually want to do. (And he currently has all of his teeth.)