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Sixteen Candles cake scene
Sixteen Candles cake scene
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Life > Experiences

Birthday Blues: Why It’s Totally Normal to Be Bummed on Your Birthday

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Illinois State chapter.

When the word ‘birthday’ is brought up, an image of balloons, confetti, cake and a party comes to the minds of most. This day is supposed to be a celebration of one’s life. However, it’s normal to feel a mix of emotions on your birthday, especially emotions that bring up some heavy feelings.

I think that as a kid, your birthday is the best day of the year; you get a bunch of toys, treats from your classmates and dinner at your favorite restaurant. A birthday is more about having fun and less about worrying about getting older and the responsibilities that come with it.

In a week, I’ll be turning 20 years old, which is difficult for me to wrap my head around. A person’s 20s are some of the most exciting years of their life, but they’re also some of the most confusing and challenging years too. Honestly, my high school graduation feels like it was yesterday. My birthday has served as a harsh reminder that I am aging and so are the people around me. The joy and safety of childhood have ended. But I think this idea is a giant misconception. It’s true: we’re all getting older. And, similar to the singular idea we have of a birthday, we have one overarching image of adulthood as well: working a 9 to 5, paying taxes and getting wrinkles. Life, however, is not that simple and not that cut and dry. I think what’s been helping me with the idea of getting older is focusing on the exciting things and milestones that come with being an adult. For example, I’ll get to travel the world, buy a house, try new things, gain more wisdom and fall in love. The passing of time is not something we can halt, so we might as well embrace the change.

Do not complain about growing old. It is a privilege denied to many.”

-Mark Twain

Sometimes, it’s not the idea of getting older that’s overwhelming, it’s the actual day itself. You’re “supposed” to be happy and enthusiastic; everything is supposed to go your way. If you’re feeling melancholy or stressed, it’s okay to cry or express those intense feelings in a way that helps you find a release. You’re not being ungrateful for needing some alone time to process things and recharge.

Some coping tips:

First, I want to remind you that you’re not alone. Many people feel sad on their birthday – I am one of those people. Here are some ideas for how to prepare or cope with the birthday blues. You can try a few on the list or come up with some ideas of your own. Having some sort of coping mechanism or emotional outlet is important; it makes those hard-to-handle feelings a little easier to manage. Check in with yourself and how you’re feeling.

  • Workout – even on your birthday
  • Listen to your favorite playlist
  • Treat yourself – have a spa day or buy that new shirt you’ve been eyeing
  • Watch your comfort show or movie
  • Journal
  • Go for a walk
  • Cry

It helps to not hold so many expectations for how your birthday should go. Pick out parts of the day you enjoyed and take some time for gratitude. Be proud of the progress you’ve made and think of all the new happy memories you’ll make.

Isabel Crabtree

Illinois State '25

Hello everyone! I am a marketing student at Illinois State University. I love all things music, true crime, and self-improvement. I write to inspire and share what I've learned. Thank you for reading!