I Had Big Plans For My 40th Birthday

by Stacy Seltzer
Originally Published: 
Stacy Seltzer holding her large golden 40th birthday balloons with a mask on her face
Courtest of Stacy Seltzer

Like happens a lot when people get older, most of my memories from when I was young are either hazy or completely gone. However, there are a few that I can recall clearly that I carry with me still today.

Oddly, one memory in particular is from a family friend’s 40th birthday. Her family and closest friends organized what we now call “Card Your Yard” with black and white cows and signs that said “Lordy, Lordy look who’s 40.”

I loved it. I thought it was so clever and such a great way to celebrate such a milestone. That night I got the privilege of attending the small gathering they threw for her. There was wine and party hats, games and so much laughter. I absorbed it all like a sponge.

I knew right then, before puberty and even high school, that I couldn’t wait to turn 40.

Now I realize I had many monumental birthdays in between 12 and 40. At 16, I was able to drive; at 18, I was an adult and off to college; and at 21, I was legal to drink. Then at 30, I felt like I was finally breaking out of young adulthood and finding my path, and it didn’t hurt that I was also getting married. Each birthday celebration always ended up being better than the one before, and all served a purpose at that time in my life.

However, I had always had my eye on the big 4-0, with each celebration being somewhat of a build up to my 40th.

I truly think I started planning the moment I turned 36. Now it could be a coping mechanism for getting older, but I didn’t care, 40 to me just felt so exciting and monumental.

I imagined Vegas at the Bellagio. A penthouse suite of course, with a view of the fountains. I pictured massive amounts of sequined outfits and cocktail after cocktail being gloriously poured down my throat. I could see myself proudly walking the sidewalks of the strip and through the casinos, taking in the sights and sounds, knowing that for just those three days I was there to celebrate me.

On top of that, right after I turn 40, it is also my 10th wedding anniversary. So this only upped the ante and expanded on my weekend celebration plans. I pictured myself on the last night in a floor-length white sparkly figure-hugging gown with my husband decked out in his favorite suit, renewing our vows at a semi-sleazy chapel with Elvis Presley officiating. Our friends laughing and clapping as we pledged (again) to love each other till death do us part.

As I talk about it now, I can feel it all. It’s a memory I made that hasn’t happened yet…and unfortunately a memory that also never will.

Courtest of Stacy Seltzer

I turn 40 in just a few weeks…during 2021…during a global pandemic.

All those dreams are now just that, a mystical hope that I carry with me to my bed, and while unconscious, I get to travel to this fantasy world of my 40th. Because I am simply like the millions of people around the globe who have had important events happen in the past several months, where all plans were significantly altered or flat-out canceled.

There were weddings, anniversaries, graduations, funerals, once-in-a-lifetime trips, and yes, even milestone birthdays that were crushed and demolished into smithereens. This is not something that is singularly focused on me. It is a worldwide repercussion of the entire population of humans trying to control a deadly virus.

Believe me, as I feel sorry for myself, all the heartache and loss felt around the world is not lost on me. I actually hate me a little bit for even being this sad. I wish I could just suck it up and say “hey, I will just celebrate later”, but my truth is that right now I can’t.

It’s almost as if I need to mourn this loss. I need to feel the feelings and simply figure out how to get past it. I know there will be more birthdays and more opportunities, my logical side knows this. I just can’t help but be really sad right now.

I have talked to my husband, family, friends and even my therapist about how to make this superficial heartache go away. I know there are zoom parties or small socially distanced outdoor gatherings, and we could even plan a local trip or just do something fun at home. I understand fully that there are options — just none of them will ever compare. So I simply have to accept my reality and move on.

My sacrifice is minuscule compared to what others have experienced over the past several months. So I plan to use that in fueling the power to burn away my sadness. I will channel the happiness I have for my healthy family and do my best to roll with the bunches of whatever happens on the day I turn 40.

I will concentrate on continuing to do my part to kick this virus’s ass, and embrace the day when I am vaccinated on a plane sitting alongside my husband and friends in a sequin dress with a cocktail in hand on my way to the one-and-only Las Vegas, Nevada.

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