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

I’m writing this a few days before my 20th birthday, a milestone that carries a different weight in the context of my college experience. In the past, every birthday was an intimate family affair, always shared with my twin sister. It was a tradition that began with a single cake and matching outfits in different colors accompanied by the classic rendition of the “Happy Birthday” song.

As we got older, our individuality flourished, even as we remained side by side. Surrounded by the warmth of family and friends, we nurtured our unique styles. It was a dual celebration, marked by two distinct cakes: her preference for ice cream cake and my unwavering love for chocolate with vanilla frosting. And then, two different “Happy Birthday” songs serenading us, sung just six minutes apart. Those moments are deeply missed.

Although we will still see each other on our birthday, this year, things are just different. We now go to different colleges, live away from home, can’t coordinate combined birthday parties, and typically have just one cake. Perhaps it’s this nostalgia that tinges my eager anticipation of my birthday with a touch of melancholy. Despite my appreciation for the process of growing older and the joys it brings, I can’t help but long for the simplicity of those bygone birthdays.

Birthdays are curious things. As the calendar inches closer to the day, I often find myself grappling with an unexpected sadness. It’s a peculiar sensation for someone who typically revels in the celebration of their own birthday. I’ve always cherished the idea that this one day could be solely devoted to me, a precious window where I didn’t have to worry about imposing on others. It felt like a legitimate excuse to accept the kindness and care of those around me without guilt. It’s not about selfishness; rather, it’s a self-prescribed permission to be looked after.

Putting these thoughts to paper has helped me realize something crucial: Could it be the overwhelming expectation that gets to me? I’m stuck in a paradox of wanting an entire day of undivided attention while simultaneously fearing that I might appear needy. I yearn to spend my birthday surrounded by the people I love, yet I hesitate to initiate plans, fearing it might come across as odd or burdensome. There’s a selfish part of me that expects my friends to reciprocate the effort I put into making their birthdays special. I go above and beyond for them, so shouldn’t they do the same for me on my birthday? But what do I do when my expectations aren’t met, and I end up feeling let down? How can I learn to release these expectations and find contentment regardless of the outcome? The last thing I want is to inconvenience anyone, but why does that fear overshadow the joy of my birthday?

I wonder if it is the feeling of loneliness. How is it when you are surrounded by all your best friends, it is still possible to feel alone? Why is it so hard to accept the fact that as we get older, things are bound to change? As I enter this new decade of my life, I feel so unsure. I’m unsure of the trajectory of my life. I feel immense pressure to figure it out because it seems like that’s what everyone else has already done.

I find myself in a situation where I sense I’m letting go of my youth, but I can’t help but wonder, what exactly is this youth I’m referring to? I feel like I’ve been adulting for years now, but the number 20 is solidifying it for me. The desire to grow up is now feeling quite bittersweet. 

Despite the rant I just went on, I am excited for my 20th birthday (although that might not be convincing). This year on my birthday, I’ll try not to reminisce on the past and wish I could time travel there instead.

Here are some tips that I am trying to combat the birthday blues: The first is to keep it simple. Spend time with the people you love. Start your morning with something you enjoy. For me, I think my morning birthday plans will be eating cake for breakfast, getting some coffee and going on a walk with said coffee alongside my boyfriend. Next, I’d suggest taking it easy. If going all out and having a wild party is what you desire, then go for it, girl – do you! However, my plan for the day is to relax with my friends. Lastly, I intend to conclude my day in the company of my family. While I cherish my friends, there’s something about being with my family that’s truly comforting. They’ve been there for me throughout my entire life, my most steadfast allies, so it only makes sense to spend my day with them.

Isabella Heilbronn

Northeastern '25

Isabella is a third-year student majoring in Communications with a minor in Marketing. She uses Her Campus as her space to share life stories, personal experiences, and create relatable, diary-like articles. She's passionate about connecting with other women through her writing.