For the past five years I've gone camping over my birthday weekend. My mid-May birthday often falls on Mother's Day, but sometimes it'll be a Tuesday and I'll celebrate from Friday through Tuesday and I have no shame about it.
My first Birthday Camping trip, I camped alone. I drove up to Kohler-Andrea outside Sheboygan. I had with me the tent I received for my birthday in 4th grade.
Side: my fourth grade birthday was fine. I think I got a bookshelf or something and that was all well and good, but what I really wanted was a tent. The night of my birthday, with a big sigh with a hint of disappointment for not receiving my tent, I removed myself from my typical spot on the couch and went to brush my teeth. I came back down to join my family for our nighttime prayer and to say goodnight, and my mom asked me to fold my blanket or something. I picked up the blanket.... and underneath was my Tent!! Joy! We all went downstairs and set it up immediately. I used that tent for many camping trips, often with my best friend Adrienne, whom I am fortunate enough to still be celebrating my birthday with!
I packed the sleeping bag that I had been using since memory begins. I also packed a chair, a book, my journal, some food (about three heaping servings of campers stew/hobo dinner, whatever you call it), and two 40s of high life.
The wood was wet. It was cold. I think it rained. I slept on the ground and -surprise!- it was not comfortable! I got drunk. I was reading The Time Traveller's Wife and so I cried a lot. I got really drunk. I was so drunk that I called my mom while drunk. (Who does that?)
Does this all sound pretty miserable? Because this trip was truly miserable. I was miserable. I needed to say goodbye to part of my life that needed to be deleted and "empty trash," so when I say I was miserable, I mean actually miserable. So I went camping. Alone. For my birthday. And through all the misery, I was able to reconnect with myself.
I made a hot albeit smoky fire (granted with help over the phone from my dad and uncle who were at a different campground on my brother's bachelor camping trip). I successfully cooked my three heaping servings of campers stew, and I ate it all. I washed away all the bad with my tears. A cardinal quietly visited me. I was alone and happy.
The next year I had a new sleeping bag.
The year after that I had a new tent.
The year after that I had hiking shoes and wool socks.
The year after that I had a rain jacket.
And I'm not camping alone anymore on my birthday. I surround myself with the best people in my life. We hike. We eat. We drink. We laugh together, and we get a little deep.
Every year I am grateful to have amazing people to share my time with, many of whom are not in this darling picture.