April 10 is a cursed day for me. My birthday, in contrast to what most think, usually comes followed by a handful of dread.
Ever since a young age, I’ve had quite the unlucky streak around my “special day.”
Most of my elementary and middle school birthdays, my parents traveled. Typically, I stayed with a variety of rotating relatives and nannies that would make some sort of attempt at acknowledging the day or frankly just forgetting it altogether. Growing older, I spent the day holding expectations of surprises but met with notes on the kitchen counter reading, “At your sister’s cheer competition! See you tonight,” from my parents.
As a college freshman, determined to take the fate of my cursed birthday into my own hands, (and oddly having a roommate with the same exact birthday) I woke up, elated to wake up to a room full of balloons. Unfortunately, my glasses were stepped on and shattered in the room-decorating process. Also, on top of that, my faulty permanent retainer forced an unwanted trip to the orthodontist that same day, so yeah, not how you want to start your birthday.
In no way am I trying to sound ungrateful for the things and people that have tried to make my birthday wonderful.
I am simply convinced April 10 is bound to be unlucky, year after year.
Come April 10, 2020, I seemed to face the unluckiest thing of all: a global pandemic with a side of shelter in place.
In spite of the quarantine, my parents had hung colored balloons around the kitchen, and a huge metallic “2” and “0” hung in the living room. They attempted to distract me from the world outside, but I longed to be back at school and return to some sense of normalcy. Post-birthday dinner, I climbed the stairs two by two to join a birthday video chat with college friends.
I hopped on my Zoom call with my three best friends from Northwestern: Amanda, Julia and Claire. It seemed so casual; simply talking about my day, how much we missed each other and how much we cursed this pandemic. Suddenly, three of them pulled up individual things on their computer. They began taking turns reading a birthday poem, stanza by stanza, all about me.
Memories from school flooded back; I smelled the breakfast in my sorority house and heard the gaggle of my group cracking up at something stupid. I heard my and Amanda (my roommate)’s late-night talks and the fashion shows we used to hold in front of our full-length mirror. I recalled all the places we had been together: a ski trip in Colorado, a spontaneous football game in Wisconsin, numerous trips to downtown Chicago and so many more.
The way they rhymed our friendship made me tear up.
My friends from thousands of miles away, west and east coasts, north and south, made my entire day. Tears fell as they finished.
The rest of the call included four hours of laughs, including a personalized “Jeopardy!” game suited to questions about my love life, my clothes and plenty of other inside jokes. We choked on laughter at the crude jokes and scrunched our noses at the more embarrassing ones. Meanwhile, for me, I felt completely and utterly shocked. Why would anyone go through so much trouble for my birthday, let alone my virtual one?
As the east coasters began to feel the wrath of a three hour time difference, we all said our goodbyes. I closed my laptop thinking how this may have cured my birthday blues. A national quarantine never sounded like the way I would spend one of my better birthdays. In fact, it sounds exactly how one would spend one of their more awful birthdays. Despite the distance, however, my friends found ways to make me feel normal in this time of constant uncertainty.
I did not ask anything of them, I only expected a simple video chat.
Instead of this typical birthday celebration, my gift was the reminder that college, by nature, will bring friends from all over the country–and the world–into your life, and this makes you more appreciative of those people and the place we are all lucky enough to spend four years calling home. As the clock hit midnight and April 11 rolled around, I thought, although my birthday may usually be pretty ill-fated, at least I got favored in the friend department.
To Amanda, Julia and Claire — thank you.