Older and Wiser…ish: A Birthday Story

My birthday is coming up and if you know me at all, you know my birthday might as well be a national holiday. I’d chalk it up to only child syndrome but I believe that everyone’s birthday should be a big deal. Another year of life is better than the alternative and if you’re doing it(life) right, then your birthday should be a day to celebrate. It’s a day to reflect on goals both achieved and missed, a day to acknowledge the blessings you have and things you want to work for. It’s like thanksgiving and New Years combined but it’s about giving thanks for you! Look out NYC, Jessgiving is around the corner and we’re about to ring in a new year! My time in New York has made for some pretty memorable birthday celebrations, thanks to my AMAZING friend circle. Some were as innocent and classy as a teaparty at Alice’s Teacup and some were slightly less classy, involving self-inflicted vomiting of excessive alcohol so that I could shake it off and rejoin my own party. Though those are both great birthday memories, a few stand out as unforgettable and must be shared. 

At 19, going on 20, my friends and I still lived in the dorms and were still virgins to alcohol. Our innocence defined us and we owned it. Creeping up to the weekend of my 20th birthday, I knew Amy had something up her sleeve and I was eager to find out. A little poking and prodding lead me to discover that she was surprising me with a visit by my high school boyfriend from Boston College. She told me to get dressed up and ready to meet outside the dorms at a set time. I played dumb to the knowledge of the boyfriend likely waiting for me outside, preparing my shocked face. Sure enough, there he was, flowers in hand, so proud to have completely blind sided me. We hugged and I acted as if I had no idea but was quickly directed to a second, actual surprise. There it sat, parked waiting to party was a 20 foot limousine and several of my close college friends. THAT I was not expecting. When you’re 20 and living in NYC, taking the subway is a financial luxury much less a limousine! We piled inside, giddy with excitement. Music up, windows down we set off through the streets of Manhattan. We stopped for dinner at place on Bleeker street called Figaro Cafe. It is now closed for business but had great Italian food and ambiance. We took prom style post-dinner pictures in front of our sweet ride and then cruised home. I don’t remember specifically but it’s a safe bet that we were back to the dorms by 10:00 and not too long after called it a night. The night felt so glamorous and I felt so loved that my friends would pitch in to give me such a memorable evening. Two days later, my high school boyfriend and I broke up. It was an amicable breakup so I’m really thankful that this is my last memory made with him. 


When I turned 21 my mom flew in and we had a great girls weekend full of manis and pedis, lavish multiple course meals and a night at the ballet. I know that’s not what most 21 year old birthdays are like but to me it was perfect. The New York City Ballet performed Giselle, one of my absolute favorites and it was so beautiful I had a lump in my throat the whole time. Not to mention it was my first time at Lincoln Square. My ballet background made for years of fantasizing about performing on that stage. After the show we went to a super boujee spot in midtown known for celebrity sightings. It was super crowded, super expensive and super judgy. Ya know the type of place where the girls look each other up and down rather than support and the guys are on the prowl in the most shallow of ways. Despite all that it was a thrilling experience and the first time I had to show my ID to enter, a procedure we learn to appreciate the older we get. 

Like I said before, I make a point to make all my birthdays a big deal but for my 30th birthday, Amy and Meghan set the bar so high I might as well stop celebrating for the rest of my life. 

I was instructed to dress up the way I like to for my birthday (high heels mandatory) and be ready by mid afternoon when Tom would take me where I needed to be. We arrived to a bar on 18th street and 2nd Avenue where I was greeted by friends I met in college, some I hadn’t seen in years and Deb, who travelled from Pittsburgh. Amy and Meghan presented me with a tutu and a tiara and announced that we were about to embark on a bar crawl of my time in NYC. The bar chosen on 18th street was strategically picked because I was 18 when I moved here and the people inside were all people I met that year. “Jezz goes to college” as they called it. The tutu was because my major was dance and ballet was my favorite. After some time there of reminiscing we suited up for the next bar. Every bar for the rest of the night had a theme based on a chapter in my life and the people in it were people I met at that time. Every new bar also had a new wardrobe to go with the theme.


The second bar was on 22nd street and the theme was “Jezz Gets a Job”. My first “grown-up” job out of college was teaching gymnastics and ballet to children at the New York Kids Club. While there I met Amy #2 (read about her in the blog post titled: ‘Twas The Night Before Thanksgiving; A Drunk Tale) So as you might expect Amy #2 and few others were there with cake, pizza and a New York Kids Club Sweatshirt; the appropriate wardrobe change to fit the theme. 


The third bar was called “Jezz Gets a Fireman” so as you might expect, there was a nice group from our firehouse family. My costume for this bar was a plastic fireman helmet. 


Bar number 4 was themed “Jezz Gets a Masters” and there to greet me were a bunch of people I met through the world of education and my apparel for this theme was obviously a graduation cap. It was at this bar they presented a cupcake and sang happy birthday. 


Our last and final bar was on 30th street because I was now 30years old. The theme was “Jezz runs marathons. Plural/Jezz turns 30 with class(unlikely)” and they adorned me with medals. By now it was probably 11:00 and my party had grown from bar to bar. The drinks had been flowing and the dancing began! This bar had a beautiful view of the Empire State Building, a nice touch to my party themed after my years in NYC. 


The planning and dedication that Amy and Meghan put into this party is unmeasurable and perfect examples of true friendship. Two years later and I’m still jaw-dropped by the love I felt that night and still overwhelmed with gratitude. I could tell you thank you a million times and it will never be enough! 

This year I turn 32, not a big deal to most but it will be my last birthday celebrated in Manhattan so obviously I’ll be wearing heels. No vomit this year though, I’m older and wiser…ish. What I’ve learned from the last 12 birthdays in this great big city is that it’s not about the heels, the location or the drinks. It’s about the people there to help you celebrate. The people who wouldn’t miss your day even if it’s snowing sideways, which it usually does on my birthday. I have yet to figure out where my 13th NYC birthday will be celebrated but I do know for sure that these amazing people I’ve chosen to be friends turned family are all I really need. 

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