To really milk your birthday to its utmost potential, don’t organize your own party. That way, multiple small groups of friends will take you out for a lot of individual birthday meals.
This lack of planning also gave me a lot of chances to think about how great my friends are—and not only because they were feeding me. Here are just a few of the ways they are awesome.
They are courageous. Whether traveling through a developing country in a wheelchair, caring for an elderly parent, or facing their own death, they complain little.
They don’t deny the difficulties of life but don’t dwell on them too much. They allow anger and grief and joy and love and can laugh at the ridiculous during good times and bad.
They work hard and care not only about the quality of their work but also about how they treat those they work with. They don’t spend much time blaming other people.
They are willing to change their minds after reflecting on something and regularly take the time for that reflection.
They are funny and kind and resilient and generous and they make me laugh. And the crowning achievement—they like to eat and cook really well.
To steal a few brilliant phrases from a graduation speech by a young woman named Rebekah Frumkin who is much smarter than I was at twenty-two, my friends “[square] the serious with the silly” and “[view] the world with humility and candor” (from a commencement address given at Carleton College).
All this helps me inch toward accepting that life is not about having everything work out well for everyone—as defined by me—but about how we react to the highs and lows. Not because I like it or it makes sense. Not because the highs and lows aren’t real but because they are and life is simply more enjoyable when we focus our mental and emotional energy on the things we’re grateful for, like amazing friends.