It’s My Birthday–I’ll Party if I Want to!

April 15, 2022

I felt a tug-of-war inside at celebrating fifty: I wanted to celebrate but had been hesitant to do so. I pushed aside my mind and listened instead to my heart. I chose the part of me that wanted to feel joy, a new and different focus. 

COVID Considerations

As I planned my birthday dinner party, I came up with a lot of reasons to not go through with it.  The first reason was COVID.  So many people missed celebrating milestone birthdays, time with loved ones, and “firsts”—life milestones that should be rites of passage. Even saying a proper farewell to loved ones was put on hold as the pandemic raged. 

As I planned my get-together, I felt stressed because no one knew what would happen with COVID.  My birthday was in February, but by December 2021/January 2022, COVID numbers were once again rising and the uncertainty of restrictions loomed. Because my parents are elderly, we had many discussions about what might work, when would be a good time to gather, what would happen if someone did contract COVID, and, lastly, what would trigger a cancellation altogether.

I wanted to have my family fly in to celebrate with me, and I wanted to bring my friends together, not only to celebrate my birthday but more importantly to be with the people I most care for. So, I began planning. In the back of my mind, I wondered if I was making a good choice. After two years of COVID-related separation, I felt weary. Everyone felt weary! I knew that not everyone would be able to make the celebration because each has their own health issues to manage. I felt pretty down because I really wanted to do something to mark this milestone, but I didn’t want to put anyone in danger–especially my elderly parents.

Sophisticated Dinner Party

Here’s what I envisioned for my celebration: I actually didn’t want a big party with music and dancing.  Instead, I wanted something relaxed yet sophisticated—an adult-only event. A chance for my friends and family to come together, meet each other and enjoy a lovely evening with cocktails, wine, and amazing food.  I envisioned something elegant, sophisticated with good energy and a beautiful ambiance.  I really wanted my family there because I promised myself that we would spend more time together since we’ve effectively lost two years–especially time with my parents. 

Celebrating with mom and dad.

I still felt a lot of internal resistance as I kept pushing forward.  There were times I thought I should just scrap the event because no one would come.  It felt pretty awful.  And it wasn’t anyone’s fault because no one wants COVID.  Yet, I promised myself that I would create some things differently in my life this year; that I wouldn’t give up on things unless, of course, it was absolutely the wrong thing to do. 

I had to have the courage to create what I wanted.  So, I pushed forward and became that woman.  Yet, I didn’t push forward with force.  Instead, I moved forward with an openness knowing that in the end whatever happened was for the best. 

The Perfect Location

I worked on the vision I saw in my mind’s eye:  a beautiful restaurant that represented my roots.  I wanted to celebrate my heritage, to celebrate who I am.  I wracked my brain to think of one and the answer was right in front of me. 

A couple of years ago, I met a gentleman named Manish at a culinary show.  He had just opened up an upscale Indian restaurant called Rooh in the West Loop in Chicago.  I had eaten there and really liked it.  It wasn’t typically Indian—it had a modern Indian flair.  Just delicious. Manish is a gem of a man with an amazing vision. He also used to work in software and made the jump to the restaurant business.

ROOH

I called Manish and told him I wanted to host a graceful dinner at his restaurant.  I told him about my vision of having an extraordinary meal with light music in the background.  And he got me. I had originally thought to have the dinner on February 19, which is closer to my birthday, but then there were still travel restrictions, numbers were up, etc.  In talking to my sister and some friends, I decided to move the date to March 12hoping that it would be easier, that some restrictions would be lifted, and that my family could fly easily from Toronto to Chicago.

The staff at Rooh are world-class.  They helped me plan out the menu and the open bar with specialty cocktails.  I ordered a cake that I thought would be delicious.  We discussed the set-up of the cocktail hour with canapes, the cake cutting, the table set up…every detail. And the night of the party, everything went exactly as we planned. With zero exceptions. This meant I wasn’t stressed out and I actually enjoyed myself!

The Big Day

My parents flew into Chicago for the first time since COVID.  They were nervous as there was so much more preparation and extra cost that went into travel compared to pre-pandemic.  They spent the week in Chicago with me and it was soooooo good for them.  They have been getting slower and older.  We spent a busy week and I could see their energy levels shift as they explored a new environment and really enjoyed themselves. And that was a priceless gift for me to witness. 

March 12 turned out better than I had imagined! My Mom and I wore Indian outfits.  I treated my mom to get her hair and make-up done—and I also got mine done. I had thought to get an updo, but the stylist said I ought to try something more fun—so she created a sassy ponytail look for me, which I loved! Plus, I tried make-up that I don’t usually wear. 

A Memory for All-Time

The evening started out with such high energy—and stayed that way all night.  Everyone was so happy to be out and to be together. The specialty cocktails I picked were a hit.  The whole night felt pre-pandemic! The food was outstanding.  I mean OUTSTANDING!  Everyone loved every single thing on my curated menu.  My birthday cake was a yellow cake with dark chocolate mousse, fresh strawberries, and pink buttercream icing with gold drip decorations.

A couple of my girlfriends said a few beautiful words. One spoke about how friends become family, how I’ve evolved, and that she felt the best was yet to come for me. Another said that sometimes as we age, we forget to make new friends and how my exuberance for life impacted her outlook on life. And another friend spoke about my love for yoga pants and quieter nights—and how much fun this event was because we all got to dress up.

The Present of Presence

My parents were so joyful.  Everyone was.  I felt so gratified to see how much enjoyment everyone had. It was lovely to integrate with and introduce my family to other important people in my life, my Chicago family. That night created memories that I’ll never forget. 

My parents were on cloud nine chatting with my friends, taking photos, reveling in the food.  And that is what made it all worthwhile for me.  For all the resistance I felt and, quite honestly, knowing how much money I spent on the event, I’m so glad to have the courage to follow my heart rather than my head.  Everyone texted me the next day to share their gratitude for such a wonderful evening.  Something shifted that night.  Everyone was safe. Everyone had a great time. And everyone felt relaxed, happy, and well-fed. 

I’m so glad I did it.  And this is what I’m telling myself as I move on to the next big thing I want to create this year: have the courage to be the woman I want to be.

Now It’s Your Turn

What have you wanted to do but haven’t? Are there celebrations to be had? People to see? Self-care to enjoy? I want to know!

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Gauri lives life full out and shares her experiences, challenges, and insights candidly on this blog, A Bad Indian.

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