My 26 year-old birthday mindset



Ah, my birthday week. I turned 26 on Monday. Recognition of my new place in the world – thoughts such as, “okay, I’m no longer able to fall back on my parents’ health insurance plan, should I ever lose it” and “oh, wow, I’m in my ‘late-20s’ now” – was something I pored over all day. There’s just no way of escaping it. As my stepdad said: “you’re ancient!”

But one of the weirder things about getting older is birthdays, in general; how I celebrate and, especially, what I ask for.

A few years ago, probably from the ages of 20 to 23, I would present my mom with a list of all the movies I wanted, and would always look forward to the Criterion Collection sale in July at Barnes and Noble. That it happened to fall right around my birthday every year seemed too perfect.

I built-up a collection containing hundreds of DVDs. My birthday money, if I received any, was all spent on movies and clothes. Every opportunity I had I chose to buy a new addition to my ever-expanding shelf. There was nothing more exciting to me than blind-buying a “classic,” reading all about film and scanning through the new releases trying to decide which was worthy of a spot.

But something changed after a few years.

I looked at my movie collection at the age of 24, right as I was about to move to a new city. It was time, once again, to haul 300 discs to another apartment. Ugh. Looking over all I had accumulated over the years, some I never even got around to watching, I decided it was time to consider letting go.

So, I did. I sold around half of my collection for some extra cash through an iPhone app called Decluttr. It wasn’t much, but it helped with gas for a couple weeks.

In no way did I lament that decision. In fact, it felt great. Having extra money is one of the most satisfying feelings of adulthood. I have bills to pay, student loan debt to worry about and a work commute in need of funding. But that still does not quite explain how I entertained getting rid of all my movies when the thought would have sent me into a panic just a few years prior.

It was at that moment, silly as it sounds, I started to realize my priorities are rapidly shifting as I get older. I no longer wanted material things for my birthday to inevitably sit and collect dust for years to come. What I really desired was either financial help if it was offered, or “experiences” I could cherish, such as taking a trip or attending a concert. A bottle of wine would be nice, too. I could browse a streaming service or borrow from a friend if I wanted to watch something new.

What I consider important now was of no consequence to me through my early-20s. The signs of aging are subtle, but they are fast encroaching. I only need to look toward my birthday list for evidence.

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