On Sunday, February 24th, I will turn 34.

I make a big deal out of my birthday. I see it as the official start to my personal new year. I reflect on the previous year and goals leading up to my birthday, and begin working on my new goals after the big day.

I am so adamant about celebrating my birthday as an adult because when I was a kid, I either had to share my birthday parties or didn’t have any. My earliest memory of a birthday party is the time my younger cousin Duke face planted in our cake while our guests sang happy birthday (Duke’s birthday is today–Happy Birthday, Duke!). This was way before cake smashes were a thing, and he landed on MY Miss Piggy instead of his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle (Raphael), but I digress. This is also the year his brother gave me chicken pox instead of a birthday gift.

Other horrific birthday experiences include:

  • a dozen kids getting trapped in my aunt’s basement by a blizzard
  • the year none of my friends came to my birthday (I was turning eleven and most of the guests were there for my brother, who was turning three)
  • my sweet sixteen, which I spent listening to a drunk family friend’s marital problems and received twenty dollars from a relative who said I had to give it back on their birthday.

When I left for college, I was determined to have better birthdays, and I did. The first person I met on campus, my next door neighbor in the dorms, shares my birthday. To this day, we still make sure we wish each other a happy birthday. Other birthday highlights from college include.

  • A frat house full of guys singing happy birthday to me and plying me with carrot cake.
  • Hanging out with above birthday buddy and eating a non-dining hall meal.
  • My college bestie Elise buying me a birthday cake with Tinkerbell on it.
  • Sharing said birthday cake with a different group of frat guys (I’m noticing an alarming trend of frat guys and cake, now that I’m looking back).
  • The weekend of Greek step shows and Darden restaurants my last year of college.

After college, I managed to make the day special for a few years. I went on a weekend getaway, friends/significant others took me out to eat or came over, and I even treated myself to ballet performances and movies (I saw Black Panther in the theater 3x last February. Ryan Coogler got all my birthday money). But while the celebrations were good, the reflections on the previous year were brutal. The further my life path deviated from my life plan, the more I dreaded my birthday.

But this year…this year…well, it’s hard to describe.

I feel…light.  I’m waking up in a good mood, smiling for no reason, going after opportunities, and being the version of Erica who’s been absent since 2009. People are noticing. I’m getting more compliments now than I have in years. It’s like I’m lit from the inside.

A big difference between this year and other years is I’ve gotten invested in my local church again. The same lightness and attractive glow was all over me in February 2017 when I was active in church. As I talked about the other day, I’ve made friends locally as well, which also helps. There’s nothing like having people in your life you can call on to discuss your favorite reality show and the deepest desires of your heart.

And then there’s this book I’ve been working on…

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I couldn’t be prouder of the poems and pieces here, and I am both excited and terrified for y’all to read them. This beauty releases Monday, March 18, 2019 (my mommy’s birthday!), but you can find out more information about it and pre-order a copy (at the sale price) here. The Speaking Season is full of firsts for me: my first poetry collection, my first attempt at a hardback book (coming soon), and my first audiobook (also coming soon).

Friends, I hope you’re gearing up to have an amazing weekend. If you need me, I’ll be rereading all the poems and pieces one more time before I order my proof copy, then I’m signing off to have some fun for my birthday.

Do you celebrate your birthday? Why or why not? What are your weekend plans?