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  • Writer's pictureEvan Wolkenstein

From Recreation to Re-Creation: How I learned to stop worrying and love my birthday

I used to be a nightmare on my Birthday.


2014. I look chill, but I was shitting a brick about turning 40.

I’ve found fault with the finest hotels, I’ve been grouchy about gifts. You could assemble a comprehensive primer on How-not-to-be-a-gracious-receiver by assembling  case studies from my birthdays.

Now, things are different. This morning, partway through my 44th birthday, I feel satisfied. Joyful. Full.

What’s changed?

The pitfall of birthdays in general: too much attention is often not good. Too much focus on desire leads to disappointment. I remember birthday parties from when I was a little kid, four or five years old. Who was most likely to be in tears by party’s end? The birthday kid. All the presents, all the cake, it’s overwhelming because it creates a sense of “what else is there?” and “why am I still hungry?”

me me me

Most of the problem: I worried way too much about what I wanted.

The journey from my 40th birthday to my 44th has been one of increasing responsibility and attachment: from multi-year committed relationship to engaged to married to looking forward to parenthood. And with each step, I feel myself losing some attachment to fanciness and diversion.

These days, I would truly rather spend a night at home, enjoying my family, than go out to any of the myriad restaurants in the neighborhood (granted, being married to an incredible chef makes that a no-brainer). Gabi and I are choosing stay-cations over vacations. And nothing makes me happier than an hour long walk. A nap. A cup of coffee. Some time to write.

Last year, in a prescient moment, I asked Gabi if she’d tolerate, for my birthday, a night in a rented Airstream Trailer about 45 minutes from San Francisco. I admit, it was the bougiest camper I’ve ever stayed in, but what made me happy wasn’t the camper itself, it was sitting at a little table, contemplating my life, smelling the sausages grilling through the vent, and watching the sun set.

Simple things.


Simple things.

This morning, Gabi brought the baby into the living room so I could get 45 extra minutes of sleep, stretched out on my tummy, the bed all for myself.

Simple things.

We called my parents and they got to see Anna on Face time.

Simple things.

I sat with Anna and recorded a hilarious video (which I will definitely show her one day) reviewing the 2 hours of crying that marked the last hour of my 43rd year and the first hour of my 44th year.

Simple things.

Gabi made me vegetarian sausages, savory crepes, and the best damn scrambled eggs I’ve ever had.

Simple things.

Oh…and a super-cool Green-bay Packers Cardigan and hat.

Unexpected, simple things.

I find my need for recreation and diversion has lifted, and my desire for the re-creation that takes place by spending time with my family has greatly increased.

Next to Anna Mari, this satisfaction is the greatest birthday gift I’ve ever received.

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