This year marks the 10th anniversary of my 20th birthday disaster (yes, I’m 30 this year). My birthday and spring in general has historically been a hallmark for general pain and suffering for much of my life, for one reason or another. I remember a time when I was really young, before the age of 6 or 7, where birthdays were still an awesome thing. Beyond there, it felt more like a day I got paid off for putting up with the nonsense of the year. Like a celebration in bribery, not really about me.

At age 19, that changed as I found myself reclaiming this day as a day on which I would honor those I cared about by hosting a fun get-together and usually an outing with the inner circle. Both the 19th and 21st birthdays were pretty fantastic, honestly, as far as the festivities I arranged. Many friends still talk about them to this day. But the 20th was an utter trainwreck, as my video pretty clearly demonstrates. It was not a good time. And beyond 21, which felt like a last hurrah, there really hasn’t been much to mention since. It seems like it always ends up inconveniently coming up in the middle of a break-up, a stressful move to a new place, a job transition, or simply unmarked in any significant way.

To be honest, I think I harbor some self-sabotaging tendencies here. I felt awkward accepting gifts, never expected them, and thought rather than being all about me, it was about those around me. Those friends and family who remembered, who wanted to be near me then. It was a celebration of my connections, not my birth. It wasn’t about me. It was for them. I still feel this way. But at some point, friends dropped off, moved somewhere out of range, and family members became estranged. Then of course, I found myself with a husband who really didn’t find any reason to celebrate any holiday. The punk, anti-establishment, tendency took over and the tradition just kind of died. The painful associations of my 20th birthday, and numerous ones growing up, certainly didn’t help in this punk winning the battle.

But the war is not yet over. Once back on my feet, I plan to celebrate my connections again. No ex-boyfriend, ex-soulmate, ex-friend, or ex-anything should be able to dictate the discourse of my life and how I choose to celebrate it. The time is coming. 30 years is enough time letting things slide, I do think.

As to the ex-boyfriend, le artist, and the ex-whatever-he-is, douchebag: For one, I said “blue grey” in the video in description of the beautiful douchebag’s eyes. They were actually more of a green grey, but I realized the reason I was so powerfully attracted to him in watching back and in this little Freudian slip-up. The 12 year old boy I had a massive crush on when I was 6 years old had striking blue-grey eyes, and many of the same facial features as this beautiful douchebag. In retrospect, so much of the feeling I projected onto him was actually out of nostalgic love for that first crush from over a decade before. I saw a spark of similarity in appearance and confused that for the substance I felt for the crush of ages. A common enough error, I would imagine!

A potentially useful question to ask yourself when faced with intense feelings that don’t make sense for the person you are looking at: What does this person represent to you? What do they remind you of? If I had asked myself this question then, I may have been able to untie the ball of emotion I felt every time I was around him and found a way to let go of him before things escalated into such a painful series of events. Hell, maybe I could have been half the boyfriend the artist deserved back then if I had. He really did deserve better from me than being forced into the shadow of my feelings for a man I only loved because he reminded me of the first person I ever had feelings for. Do you read me?

Another thought, rather than simply “not telling him” about my feelings for this other man, I would like to offer clarification. I think I should have put the feelings behind me, found a way to do so, and if I really couldn’t as it felt like I couldn’t, then I needed to not be in the relationship at all until I could. It was not fair to the artist who was earnestly offering his love the best he knew how. And I tried, I broke up briefly, thought I was over it, got back together, found I wasn’t, then didn’t have the heart to break up again because I did have feelings for the artist regardless. Perhaps not agreeing to having us all meet would have been a good place to say “No,” or maybe even when it was suggested he come back with us for the night (“No”), or when it was suggested he sleep over (“No”), or stay when I left for work (“No, get out”), or … There were many opportunities I had to say No and to leave, but I stuck around and took the punches. Why? Because I WANTED this douchebag of a man so badly, and I didn’t even really understand why. 10 years later, now I do.

Food for thought. I hope you enjoy the story. Do let me know if any other lessons pop out at you. There are numerous buried in this story. The biggest though, know when to say “No” and take yourself out of the game when it is going out of control. There is no reason to put yourself thru the ringer for other people’s whims. Or even your own. Respect yourself, regardless of the irrational feelings that may be buzzing around your brain.


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