Celebrating My 26th Birthday in Lockdown

When we went into lockdown in March, I never thought that I’d be celebrating my birthday (roughly six months later) still in lockdown. I just hadn’t thought that far ahead. I know that lockdown has loosened over the last few months but I still don’t feel as though it’s safe enough or socially responsible to do something as casual as going out for my birthday when, fingers crossed, I’ll have many more. So we had to get creative with the birthday celebrations but I feel like I still followed my birthday rules and feel good about how I celebrated my birthday even though it was a bit different than I’d have expected it to be.

So, to refresh our memories, these birthday rules that I discovered several years ago are: do something you wouldn’t normally do and buy yourself something you wouldn’t normally buy. So here we go…


Rule #1: Do something you wouldn’t normally do.

Finding something to do at home was a bit of a challenge because, after six months of staying inside, we’ve really done everything possible to do, from the mundane to the more interesting. So I did find it hard to come up with something. But then I had a sudden flash of inspiration. We always have homemade cake on birthdays but we thought that, rather than going out to do something special, we’d have something special brought to us and so we ordered a beautiful, more extravagant cake for the day of my birthday (we will still have homemade cake because it’s a family tradition – we’ll just do it later on). I got to choose it and I was very excited for it to arrive.

I had classes (online) all day on my birthday but when I came downstairs after the second one, this beautiful cake – chocolate cake, chocolate icing, and maltesers (available here from Betsy’s Bake) – was sitting on the counter. I had a couple of hours before my next class and one of my parents dropped in briefly for what we had officially named ‘the cake break.’ It was really, really good. I had cut myself far too big a slice to get through (it was very rich) so I tucked it away and did my last class of the day, before having dinner and finishing it off.

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Because there was much more than we could eat ourselves, it was really fun to share with people and witness their excitement and enjoyment. That was a really nice part of it that I hadn’t expected, thinking we’d get through it all as a family. In general, I think I prefer our simpler, homemade cakes but I did really, really enjoy this as a fancy birthday treat, which, afterall, was the point.

Rule #2: Buy yourself something you wouldn’t normally buy.

Having received the two big items that I would have chosen to spend money on for my birthday (and technically I am contributing to the electric guitar because it is an expensive purchase), I was a bit lost as to what to do for this second rule. I feel very fortunate for my birthday presents but I have also really come to enjoy this tradition and so I still wanted to buy myself something I wouldn’t normally buy; I just wasn’t sure what to buy as there weren’t any big things I wanted and it would be a waste to buy something I only just kind of wanted. So instead of buying one thing, I looked at what I’d spent in previous years and once I had an estimate of what to spend, I decided to dedicate that money to my attempt during lockdown to finally finish decorating my room. It does mean these things won’t all arrive at once and it won’t be the traditional ‘the thing has arrived!’ but if there was ever a time to bend rules like these, this is it.

I haven’t spent all of the allotted money yet but so far, I’m getting a suncatcher, some sea glass to put in jars to place around the room, some small prints to go on the walls, and a cool candle. I’m not sure what else I’ll choose yet but I’m so excited to have my room start to feel truly like my space. It’s gonna be so great.

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This is the guitar that was my main birthday present, which I’m paying for in part because it was pretty expensive.


My actual birthday was A LOT. I had some lovely messages and cards and gifts from family and friends and the amazing cake so there was a lot of good. But it was also very hard work. I had three university classes, one of which was kind of like a personal development seminar and that got very emotional. I felt drained and completely exhausted afterwards, even though it had been a positive experience. But it was hard and upsetting to dig so deep. Plus I have this weird anxiety about turning twenty-six when I feel like I haven’t done all the growing I’m supposed to do at twenty-five due to the pandemic. I ended the day falling asleep on the sofa with the beginning of what turned into a several day long migraine. So, yeah, it was a lot. But I do genuinely think I will always look back at it and remember a really good, really special birthday.

A Very Late 25th Birthday Post

Last year, I wrote a post around my birthday about adding some rules to the celebration, mainly to make the experience more enjoyable and more memorable: do something you wouldn’t normally do and buy yourself something you wouldn’t normally buy. For my twenty fourth birthday, I ran my dog’s hydrotherapy session and bought myself a typewriter. It was really special so I thought I’d do it again this year… I’m just very late. Last September, my mental health was awful and I’d just started my Masters so my birthday wasn’t the first thing on my mind. A lot of the celebrations got delayed; I only got one of my birthday presents a couple of weeks ago. But that doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is that it matters, that it feels special.

So here are the results of the rules for my 25th birthday…

Rule #1: Do something you wouldn’t normally do.

On Sunday 8th March, I saw Halsey at the O2 Arena and she was absolutely incredible, as I knew she would be. Back when I booked the tickets, I knew I would want to see her again. As I’ve said before, “I often get overwhelmed mid show and so seeing [a show] multiple times allows me to get the full experience – and why would you not want to see a show you love more than once [if you can afford to], especially if it’s only on for a limited time?” So after booking the London tickets, I talked to my Mum about seeing Halsey again, despite the fact that the closest possible show was in Dublin. We’d talked about taking a short trip – a few days somewhere – to celebrate my 25th birthday and up until now, I haven’t been able to think of somewhere I wanted to go (we’d thought about a few extra days in America but it clashes with university stuff this year) or do until now. So we planned our little trip to Dublin, trying to miss as little uni time as possible. And I’m really glad we did because she, Halsey, has since said that she plans not to tour for an indefinite period of time after this. So taking this extra opportunity to see her before that  happens became very important to me.

As I said, she was incredible in London – it was probably one of the best shows I’ve ever seen – but I want to focus on the Dublin show (on the 10th March), as that was my birthday trip. And besides, the London show being special doesn’t make the Dublin show less special. It was just special in different ways.

The arena wasn’t hugely well organised and the disabled area didn’t have a great view – Halsey has such beautiful images on the screens behind her that it was frustrating to have a significant section of it blocked by the lighting rig, etc. So it wasn’t ideal but being able to sit and still see is always such a relief. After the London show where I couldn’t get a disabled ticket and ended up having to stand to see (I’m still not used to being ‘disabled’ or ‘partially disabled’ – I’m not sure what the right term is for someone with Autism, mental health problems, chronic pain, and chronic fatigue is – so I do keep trying to tough it out, which often turns out to be a bad idea). That caused terrible leg pain that’s ongoing. So sitting down for the show was a huge, huge relief, even if we weren’t in a great position.

The show was amazing. Halsey is an incredible performer and some of the highlights for me were ‘Castle,’ ‘Forever… (Is A Long Time),’ ‘3am,’ ‘100 Letters (Acoustic),’ ‘Is There Somewhere,’ ‘Graveyard,’ ‘929,’ ‘Ashley,’ and ‘Gasoline.’ I could list all of them really because each performance was so powerful and so full of passion and electric energy. The vocals, the band, the backgrounds, the platforms hanging from the ceiling… they were all SO GOOD. She gives everything to every song, to every aspect of the show. And as much as I love all of that, the part I love the most is the way she talks to the crowd. It’s so honest and sincere and special and somehow she makes it feel like the concert is a secret between you and her. I don’t know how she does it. But I’m in awe.

It was a really special birthday present and I’m really grateful. We had barely any time in Dublin but the point of going was the concert and the concert was amazing. Halsey and her music are so special to me and her shows are so special to me but this show – these two shows – have been the most special. Turning twenty five was really scary and stressful for me and so, to celebrate that milestone – and celebrate coping with it – with someone who actually shares the same birthday as me… well, that was extra special.

Rule #2: Buy yourself something you wouldn’t normally buy.

I was browsing through a vintage jewellery shop recently, just looking really, because I’d seen some jewellery in the window that might work for a music video. I didn’t find anything for the video but I found this ring that I just fell in love with (and another similar one that I also loved). It’s not a colour I’d normally choose and it was a bit expensive when I’m about to go on several trips but I took a couple of weeks to think about it and even went back several times to look at it. But eventually I decided that I really, truly loved this one so I decided to buy it.

It’s a little bit big and probably needs to be resized slightly but I’ve been wearing it around the house ever since because I’m just in love with it. It’s beautiful. I can’t wait to wear it out during the day. I’m so happy with it and my choice to buy it.

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So it was a very late birthday celebration – almost six months late – but they were really good celebrations. I just wasn’t ready or capable at the time. I like to think that they showed up when I was ready. So maybe I’m ready to be twenty five now. Or maybe not. But I sure as hell celebrated it.

Birthday Rules

A few years ago, I found this post on Tumblr about celebrating ‘grown up birthdays.’ This person talked about how stressful they found birthdays as an adult and so they’d implemented two rules: do something you wouldn’t normally do and buy yourself something you wouldn’t normally buy. They said that, since starting these rules, each year has been distinct and memorable.

I really like this as an idea. I can definitely relate to feeling anxious around birthdays: I always feel like I’m not enjoying myself as much as I should be, like I’m not happy enough. It’s silly but it gets me all twisted up. And when I was in school and university, my birthday always felt rushed, what with the start of the academic year.

More recently, as I’ve been struggling more with my mental health, I find myself thinking something like, “This is the year I’m going to feel better,” or “I’m going to feel better by my next birthday.” It causes me such anxiety. And the longer this period of depression goes on, the more anxious I get. I’m aware that it’s not a helpful thought to have but it’s not an easy one to unpick. But maybe a possible answer is to associate my birthday with positive memories.

So here we go…

Rule #1: Do something you wouldn’t normally do.

I had a couple of thoughts about this one but then one just fell into my lap and just seemed perfect.

My dog has had hydrotherapy for years. He’s fifteen and very arthritic and it’s helped massively. Plus it’s probably the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. He used to surge through the water after tennis balls, kicking so hard that the hydrotherapist had trouble figuring out which joints were working and which weren’t. But now it’s much calmer. He knows the ball will be there when he gets there. Anyway.

Usually he works with a hydrotherapist but this time, the hydrotherapist taught my Mum and me how to do it. And oh my god, it was hard work. They make it look so easy! Trying to gauge how much he’s extending and the angle his legs are at when fully extended was really tricky but as an experience, it was so much fun. I was exhausted afterwards but I really, really enjoyed it and it was a special experience.

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Rule #2: Buy yourself something you wouldn’t normally buy.

I get very anxious about spending money (this post is turning into a list of things I get anxious about…) so carrying out this rule was probably a good exercise in challenging that anxiety. Anyway.

For as long as I can remember I’ve loved typewriters. I like how they look, I like how they sound, and I love the tangible quality that they attach to stories and poetry and words. I’ve been fostering one – if that makes sense – for the last couple of years and I love it dearly but there’s always been one I’ve had my heart set on. It’s the most beautiful typewriter I’ve ever seen and then a couple of weeks ago, I saw one for sale on Etsy. I’ve had these rules in mind for a while and given how rarely it happens to see this exact typewriter for sale, I went for it.

It’s so beautiful and it does actually still work. I haven’t had time to try it out yet but I’m really excited to.

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Despite my current mental health struggles, it was a good birthday. It was quiet and low key but with some really positive experiences. It was a good day.