When you live in a foreign country, there might be a year when you have to celebrate your birthday on your own. This might seem like a terrible fate, but I am going to tell you how to celebrate your birthday alone and own it!
This year my birthday fell slap bam in the middle of Chuseok – Korean thanksgiving. In Chuseok, most Koreans rush to the country side to give thanks to their ancestors and most foreigners plan far in advance to travel to a different country. Because I went all out with my summer vacation, I decided to stay at home for Chuseok. Consequently, all my friends in Korea already planned their vacations early in the year and I had to celebrate alone this year. I can tell you, it was a completely different experience than any other year, but it was a truly memorable and amazing birthday nonetheless. To be honest, I expected to get drunk, cry and finish a whole cake on my own. It turned out the complete opposite…okay, except for the whole cake part…and maybe some crying…and..let’s skip to the tips now, shall we?
If you are about to celebrate a birthday alone, here are some tips on how to own it.
In the weeks leading up to your birthday, plan it like you’re planning a birthday for someone else. Then on your actual birthday – SURPRISE! it’s for you! Plan a rough schedule for your day which doesn’t involve too many other people. This way you will wake up excited for your birthday plans, but can still change them if you’re feeling up to something else without inconveniencing someone else. It’s good to plan, because it keeps your mind off sulking. Make it fun for yourself and fill the day with things you love to do.
We’re still pretending it’s someone else’s birthday. You know how you always buy your friends these awesome gifts that you actually just want to keep for yourself? Well, now you can! Go out and splurge like it’s for your best friend. Then wrap it and pack it away. The night before your birthday, take it out again and then you will wake up with a glorious present waiting for you. Why thank you.
The last thing you want to do on the morning of your birthday is stand in front of a full closet with “nothing to wear”. I hereby formally order you to go and buy that dress that you keep walking circles around and the matching shoes as well. Why not add the earrings too while we’re at it! And the neck – woah now, let’s not spend birthday envelopes we haven’t received yet. Now hang that thang outside and feel stunning on your birthday. I suggest something not too tight, cause we all know food babies ain’t fun in a skintight LBD.
4. Bucket List
In the few days leading up to your birthday, or even on the birthday itself, take some time to reflect on the past and dream for the future. Take a look at your bucket list and add some things or make one if you don’t have on already. Also take some time to make a list of all the amazing experiences and things you’ve accomplished or survived during the past year. Looking at a list of things you’ve done that you’re proud of or excited about makes buying more birthday candles significantly easier. Having a list of things you still want to do also makes you feel younger.
5. Book a massage
You don’t need any friends to get a massage. In fact, it’s better to spa it up alone. You don’t need anyone to talk to. Relax and think positive thoughts. Think about your happy memories or, if you’re one of those lucky people who can manage to do it, think about nothing. Just relax and enjoy your day.
6. See a movie
Another thing you can don’t need any friends for. Go to the movies, buy the biggest popcorn and all the snacks you’ve ever wanted and allow the movie to take you far away.
7. Switch off your cellphone
I know, I know, you can’t help looking at your phone every 5 seconds to see who sent you a message, BUT they are not with you now. You are alone. Although this is going to be a liberating and amazing journey of a day, you might be a bit emotionally fragile. If you’re constantly being reminded that it’s your birthday and your friends are not with you, you might get emotional and forget to just enjoy the moment that you’re in.
8. Cry and love it
Celebrating your birthday alone can be an emotional roller coaster. While you might be have a fantastic day for the most part of it, chances are good that there might be some waterworks somewhere during the day. If you’re tearing up, let it go and embrace it. Crying is good. It’s like Windowlene for the windows of the soul. Cry and you will be able to see everything much clearer.
9. Make a playlist.
Make a playlist of your favourite uplifting, upbeat, positive songs to play on the morning of your birthday while you’re getting ready. This will set the mood for the day and create a positive atmosphere to start the day off.
10. Birthday merch and CANDLES!!!
Birthday hats, streamers and crackers might sound cheesy, but we all love cheese and on your birthday go for extra cheese. Go crazy in the birthday isle and decorate your breakfast table the night before. Then – CANDLES, buy as many candles as you can and then light and blow out candles until it feels stupid. Nothing makes it feel more like a birthday than blowing out candles. Stick some in your breakfast, in your lunch, in your cake, anything!
Plan your dream breakfast – whatever you want, go get it! In my case, it was vanilla cream roll cake with licorice all sorts and homemade oat cookies on the side. Even if you want to buy a whole cake and take a few bites out of it with a large spoon, just do it. It’s your birthday and it’s the one day where you can really eat whatever you want without feeling guilty about it. Set your breakfast table the night before and decorate it beautifully.
12. Bless someone else
It is scientifically proven that doing something nice for someone else stimulates the release of serotonin in the brain and makes you feel all fuzzy and good inside (most people), but you don’t need science to know that sharing happiness creates double happiness. Buy an extra piece of cake or small present and give it to a random stranger or just do a small act of kindness. Donate to charity, help an elderly person cross the street, buy food for a homeless person, whatever, it doesn’t matter what you do. Maybe you dedicate your whole day to charity or maybe you just buy someone else a coffee. Whatever you do, it will make you feel good and less alone.
13. Embrace the independence
Your birthday is your day. This year it is totally up to you. Yes, it’s true, there is no one to plan things for you or surprise you, but there is also no one to tell you what to do or to disappoint you. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want without having to wonder if everyone is entertained or having a good time. This freedom is wonderful. You can have your cake and sit and people watch and savour every single bite without any talking pauses. Relax and enjoy your own presence.
Now that you’re alone and not following anyone else’s plans, take some time to be spontaneous and just explore. Walk around, you never know what you might find. Who knows what could happen, but we all know nothing is going to happen if you don’t leave the bathroom cubicle.
15. Try something new…or don’t
A birthday marks the first day of a new year. This is the perfect time to try something different or maybe just something you’re always wanted to. What have you always wanted to try? You know that arts and crafts coffee shop you always walk past and wonder about, but never go in? How about checking it out on your birthday? Or even that dance class you’ve always wanted to try, now is the time to shake things up. Literally. OR, on the contrary, if you want to spend the day just doing your tried and trusted favourite things, it’s also okay. More than okay. Anything you do or feel on your birthday is okay. If you feel so overwhelmingly happy and sad at the same time and want to laugh and cry on the same time, try it. It’s okay. Anything goes.
16. Forget about anything anyone else thinks you should be doing
The only thing you should be doing is enjoying your day and the only person whose standards that should match is yours. Forget about what anyone else regards as a good birthday and celebrate it the way YOU want to. If that means eating cake in bed all day or going out and being home before midnight, it doesn’t matter. Do whatever feels good, whenever it feels good.
17. Get moving
Dance or do some yoga or hit the gym, any exercise will release those happy drugs and voila – happy birthday brain. No one can feel sad on an exercise high. Maybe exercise the day before or the morning of your birthday. I did a few dance videos online and it felt great.
18. Be kind to yourself
No negative thoughts. Today is not the day to pinch your fat and tell yourself how you’ll start a strict diet after your birthday or to look for any new wrinkles. Today is the day to look in the mirror and wink at that sexy freak staring back at you. Accept and embrace every part of yourself, flaws and all. You have no one to impress today.
Take a moment to just be thankful. Remember that having a birthday is such a privilege. You get to celebrate another full year of life. Many people struggle with a terminal illness and reaching another birthday would be a dream come true, no matter how they spend it. If you are healthy and free, count yourself very blessed.
This birthday wasn’t like any other of my birthdays, but I can say in all honesty that it truly was an amazing and wonderfully liberating experience. Yes, there were some tears when I really wanted to call my loved ones, but they weren’t awake yet (thank you time difference), but I am grateful for those too. Thanks to Korea’s make-up obsession, I could just step out of the cubicle and touch up my make-up at the nearest cosmetics shop.
I have the best friends in the world and still felt their love all day long, but spending the day alone is something that I’m also grateful I got to experience. I am so happy. I ate more pieces of cake than I can count (and many other treats muhahaha), I was good to myself, embraced every second of this day and I was okay. Truly okay. I’m 24 and I spent a birthday alone and went to bed happy. It’s such an invigorating and liberating feeling. It makes me feel like this is going to be a good year.