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My birthday was today. 

I don’t really know how to feel about that yet. I’m at home. I have been for weeks. My mother is an essential worker, so I have been self-quarantining at home in case she is to bring it home to me, even before mandated by the state. I knew my birthday was going to be on Passover. I had accepted that already, with a scheduled trip home and Passover chocolate cream pie waiting for me. I would come home for two nights and spend my birthday with my extended family, singing songs and receiving presents from my parents. I would go back into the city on Friday morning for a night out with friends (or two). But I came home earlier than expected

I’ve always had a problem with birthdays. They’re so final. They can’t be pushed back or changed. Whatever you’ve done by that day is it. Sure, you can do it all next year, but once that clock strikes 12, you can never be that young again. I can buy alcohol. I can work for Uber. I can adopt a child (that one’s crazy to think about). But there are also things that I’ve wanted for myself. A close group of friends. A steady job. An idea of what to do with my life. I have some of those, but still don’t feel like I’ve accomplished much for my age. 

Girl blowing out candles
Sergei Solo

Growing older never really appealed to me. It always happened too quickly. There weren’t enough hours in the day to be published in fancy magazines, maintain a fascinating social life, write the next great American novel, and make the Dean’s list. I tried to distract my perceived failure with ideas of lavish birthdays, but they never turned out right. In truth, I’ve never had a good one. I’ve broken my hand on glass at the park and needed surgery, unable to use my hands to make the bracelets at my own bracelet-making party. I had hives all over on an 80-degree day, and my mom made me wear shorts and a tank top for my painting party. I’ve been grounded. I spent my last birthday abroad in a small town in the Netherlands, with classes scheduled until 10 p.m., barely enough time to eat nevermind celebrate. The buses out of town, toward anything “birthday worthy,” stopped at the same time. But this year has to take the cake. One lonely candle in the middle of my Passover chocolate cream pie, only my sister and my mother at the table. I didn’t ask for anything this year. I didn’t want to be disappointed. And yet, somehow I still was; in where I wanted to be in life; in my school opportunities due to COVID-19; in my now-dashed summer plans; in my low expectations being higher than they should have. 

This birthday doesn’t have to be the best yet. It doesn’t even have to be good. I shouldn’t have to put pressure on myself to have today feel special. It sucks. Everything does right now. And that should be okay. Instead of pretending to be enlightened and endlessly creative and somehow rejuvenated, I am going to sit on my comfy living room couch, sneak a piece of chocolate toffee matzo from the fridge, and watch my favorite show on HGTV. Today was just my first day of 21. I still have 364 more. Tomorrow might not be the best day ever. Maybe not even the day after that. But one day out of those 364 will make me smile and feel loved and confident and happy. It doesn’t have to be today.

Lilli is a Co-Campus Correspondent for Her Campus at Emerson. This is her second year as a member of Her Campus and second as a Campus Trendsetter. Lilli is a senior journalism major at Emerson College with minors in fiction and women, gender, and sexuality studies. She's a bubbly Aries who loves to keep a busy schedule, but she always leaves enough room for food, friends, and curling up to watch HGTV. Follow her on Instagram @lillircohen
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