Earlier this month, I celebrated my 30th birthday and it was the best birthday I’ve ever had. That’s mostly because it’s the first birthday I’ve gotten right.
For the record, I have had various types of birthday celebrations — from big banquet halls, to small dinners, to intimate games nights. But what I found was that I’d have one kind of birthday party, not enjoy it, then overcorrect and think I needed to have the exact opposite experience to finally have fun. Frankly, all those birthdays sucked, because they didn’t make me feel good. Why? Because I was doing what I thought I was supposed to do and not what I wanted to do.
How to figure out what you actually want to do on your birthday
I was first inspired to do a solo birthday by L’Oreal Thompson Payton’s blog post Why I decided to celebrate my 30th birthday by myself. L’Oreal also “desperately craved some quality alone time” and that really resonated with me. That prompted me to research ideas for meditation-based experiences and I first landed on a silent retreat idea which I felt, at the time, was a little too on point for me… but I’m definitely saving it for a future birthday.
This process reinforced something important I learned in my late 20s and have been trying to practice in all aspects of life is aligning what you do with what you truly value. So I made a list of my values and how I could translate those into a memorable milestone birthday experience. I also found it helpful to line up those values against experiences I’ve tried, tested, and consider less enjoyable and would want to avoid. The result was this table:
|Birthday experiences I want to avoid||What I value most|
*On a day-to-day basis, many of us consider ourselves to be caring, considerate people; good listeners and compromisers. But when you think about it, we’re always juggling a lot between our own needs and wants and those of the people around us. That’s why for birthdays, I think it’s fair to ask for 24 hours — one day out of 365 — where we only have to look out for numero uno. To me, that means a full day where I could have a break from listening to other people’s stories, compromising on what to watch, and navigating another person’s hunger-related mood swings (managing your own hanger is tough enough).
Additionally, as an introvert with interpersonal anxiety, I generally don’t enjoy social interaction on most days. So for my birthday, I wanted to treat myself to a full day of very limited human contact.
How I spent my 30th birthday
Every year, I like to take two days off work for my birthday. This year my birthday fell on a quiet, snowy Wednesday, and it made me feel like I had the city of Toronto all to myself.
I started the day with my very first hot stone massage at Body In Tune in Liberty Village (171 E Liberty St #133). I love getting massages there because the decor is so similar to my own and thus makes me feel calm and at home. I thought this was the perfect way to start the day!
After my massage, I hopped on the streetcar to spend the afternoon on Roncesvalles Avenue. I used the streetcar ride to do some light, observational meditation, taking in everything around me and soaking in feelings of birthday gratitude.
Blocking calls and messaging apps on my phone also helped me minimize my screen time and stay present for the day. While I am grateful for receiving thoughtful messages on my birthday, I did not want to spend any part of the day with my head buried in my phone. So I used the new Screen Time feature on iOS to go into Downtime and block my iMessage. I also activated Do Not Disturb to block calls. I responded to everyone’s messages the next day.
For my big birthday feast, I went to Café Polonez (195 Roncesvalles Ave). I had only discovered this legendary Polish restaurant last New Year’s Eve, but the chicken schnitzel platter I had that day was one of the best meals I’d ever had and I told myself then that I would definitely be back for my birthday. It was even more of a treat to spend my birthday there because I had the place ALLLLLLto myself! Note: weekdays at 3:30 p.m. are a great time to have lunch if you also enjoy eating in peace and quiet.
After lunch, I found myself at Ecotique (191 Roncesvalles Ave), an awesome eco-minded shop that carries housewares, beauty, and gifts. There, I was drawn to a beautiful upcycled sari robe. I held it up then put it back on the rack at least three times before allowing myself to put a one-day hold on my shopping ban and treat myself to a birthday gift. Not only is the robe gorgeous and ethical, but it also feels amazing and luxurious on my skin. As soon as I got home, I changed into the robe, put on my favourite Zen Garden music playlist, and chilled the night away.
Later that night, my dude came over and surprised me with cake, wine, and gifts! One of the gifts was a book I had on my wish list for over a year but could not find anywhere online or in stores. It was really special to receive Geek Art: Pop Culture Now from someone with whom I bond over all nerdy things. When I first discovered the book, I was getting reacquainted with designing Star Wars fan art. Now that I’ve seen the work of all the talented artists featured in the book, I’m inspired to one day have my work featured in a similar curation.
How I spent my 30th birthday weekend
I also wanted the weekend portion of my birthday week to be just as carefully thought out so that it continued to align with what I value and consider to be soul-enriching experiences.
So on the Saturday, I booked an Airbnb experience hosted by a couple who performs classical music in their home. This intimate concert was all about great music, quality conversation, and hanging out with a very friendly cat named Mortimer. Rory and Emily are extremely talented musicians and engaging hosts who also shared some advice about the music industry that motivated me in my quest to become a jazz singer. I would highly recommend this event to anyone looking for a truly unique way to spend an evening in Toronto.
Then on Sunday night, my friend Karina spoiled me with a candlelit dinner at her place. She said she wanted to take me out to a place of my choosing, but I said I enjoyed “in” way more than “out.” So she was so generous to plan an evening of delicious food, treats, and a movie. She made some super-tasty white wine mussels, baked fresh bread, and even presented me with a fruit tart with a “Happy Birthday” song. Too sweet!
And that’s a wrap on Part 1 of my 30th birthday. Look out for Part 2 where my mom and I go for some fancy afternoon tea at The Omni King Edward Hotel.
P.S. Thank you to everyone at Body In Tune, Cafe Polonez, and Ecotique for letting me take pictures in and of your space, and for being so accommodating with taking pictures of me. It was very kind of you all help me document this milestone birthday.