Spending My Birthday in Lockdown

I turned twenty on the 17th and spent most of the day alone. I am currently living at home, so I saw my family, but the most interaction I got besides that were texts with friends. I know there are much worse things happening right now; I am still able to work, my parents are still able to work, and all six of us are healthy. But just because something that upsets you seems more trivial than someone else’s situation, doesn’t mean it hurts any less or is any less valid. I also am surely not the only one who has had to spend their birthday in less than ideal conditions, and I want people to know they are not alone in being upset about it.

I spent my birthday last year at school, celebrating with my roommate by going into Northampton and getting two cartilage piercings I had been wanting since before I turned eighteen. Overall, it was a good day. My mother had driven down and taken me out to dinner the night before, and she brought a huge bundle of balloons to celebrate. I remember feeling embarrassed instead of happy, and looking back I regret not appreciating her effort more, especially considering she was not able to visit once the following semester (before we all got sent home). Even though I did a fun thing that I had wanted to do for some time, I still felt isolated; my anxiety was getting worse and at that time was undiagnosed, and my roommate was my only friend. I told myself that next year (November of 2020) I was going to have a big party for all my friends when we came home for Christmas break. I had had parties when I was younger, but I had never cared about myself enough as a teenager to celebrate my own birthday. 

two pink and white floral boxes Wijdan Mq/Unsplash

Obviously, once Covid-19 spread to the United States and lockdown began, all thoughts of that left my head. I had probably forgotten about my idea long before then, as it was nowhere close to my birthday, but I definitely wasn’t thinking about it after quarantine started. Once it got closer to my birthday, I honestly kept forgetting that it was even approaching. It felt stupid to be excited when there were so many more important things going on. I was focusing so closely on school that it kind of snuck up on me, first it was the week before, then the weekend of, and then my actual birthday. My parents both work; my mom is a nurse at an inpatient detox facility and my dad is a general contractor in construction. Neither of them are strangers to long hours and this day was no different. By the time I got up, they had both gone to work, but they had bought balloons and doughnuts from the shop in town (Dunkin’ does not even hold a candle to those doughnuts) for breakfast. I was happy, it was nice, and even though I was in a Zoom class the whole time, I was glad I got to be in my family home. Knowing that they loved me and that they were happy I was there brightened my day. I hate to say that it didn’t last.

Unfortunately, no sweet gesture from my parents was enough to make me forget that I was essentially trapped at home and would be putting myself and other people at risk if I tried to see anyone in person. That said, my state is one of the safest places in the country right now, but we’ve stayed that way because everyone has been vigilant and there are still very strict rules in place in regards to gatherings. Having a day full of Zoom classes didn’t help either. Gone were the days of having class with a friend and having them speak up and say that it was your birthday so everyone should sing, and being slightly embarrassed about it but mostly happy. There is no subtle way to drop hints on Zoom, and I even if I did, I would have felt like I was fishing for compliments. So it was just a normal day, and honestly kind of a rough school day. By evening, it didn’t even really feel like my birthday anymore. I thought to myself, “Maybe this is just what it’s like getting older, your birthday is just like any other normal day, and you just go through the motions.” But then I remembered how my family still made a point to call family members on their birthdays, and how we made cakes for our parents when it was their birthdays. I realize that birthdays can be like any other day, you still have responsibilities, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be special. I felt special in the morning, when I saw all that my parents had done and that my grandparents had sent me flowers, but getting caught up in all that I had to do for the day to just stay afloat popped that bubble. I keep feeling like maybe I could have done more to make it feel like a day to be celebrated, and in hindsight, maybe there were some virtual activities that I could have done. After a day full of Zoom calls though, the last thing I wanted was to voluntarily host a meeting myself. As I said before, there was no way for me to see or celebrate with the people I wanted to without a substantial amount of risk. So I didn’t do anything. I stayed in my little office room all day attending Zoom lectures and doing assignments. My siblings were home, but they had their own things to attend to, and I see them 24/7 anyway so hanging out doesn’t hold the same joy it once did. 

woman in white long-sleeve shirt looking out a rainy window Photo by Leonardo Pavão from Pexels

Once my mom got home from work sometime after eight, we had a late dinner and went to bed. Hugs were had and dessert was consumed (we were to have cake that weekend because my mom had the day off), but then the day was over (I also opened presents that weekend because lack of planning on my part meant that most of them had not arrived by my actual birthday). I felt a strange sort of melancholy, almost like a “That’s it?” feeling when I went to bed. Even though what I did was all I could have done with what I had at hand, and though I was grateful, I was also sad. I am not a religious person by any means, but I pray that this time next year is unrecognizable to us in the best way possible. I hope I am able to safely have a massive party with all my friends and family for my twenty-first birthday, and I hope that all those that I care about will be able to celebrate themselves too. Looking back, I think of all the people that we have lost this year, people who will never celebrate another birthday, and the people they left behind, who will never celebrate another birthday with them. I am grateful every day that even though I had a pretty crappy birthday I was still living and healthy, and that the people around me were too. Next year I hope we can all celebrate, not only for ourselves for surviving, but for the lives of those who didn’t. 


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