You guys, I legitimately have no idea where to even begin. I was so overwhelmed with joy & happiness on my birthday this year, despite living hundreds of miles from home. My heart absorbed your love like a sponge & when it got too full, the tears started flowing. Four times, in fact.
The overwhelming love began on April 25, the day before my birthday. My roommate, Andrea, & her daughter, Ava, took me to Mueller State Park for a beautiful hike. The trails still had snow knee-high in some areas & our feet got soaked, but that made the hike all that much more memorable & hilarious! Our hike was followed by a fabulous McDonald's ice-cold coke... In this house, those cokes are our weakness. When we got home, Andrea made tri-tip tacos for my birthday dinner (swoon), complete with Jose & Sauza margaritas (double swoon), while I sat outside in the sunshine & read Harry Potter. Listen, these two girls have been such a huge blessing to me, even before moving in with them, but I can confidently say that they have changed my life for the better.
Later that evening, one of my best friends from home, Alese, sent me a txt message at 10:00 P.M. Mountain Standard Time on April 25 stating, "Happy official birthday in Indiana!!" For her to stay up until midnight her time, watching the clock so she could send me a sweet message for my birthday, means so much. That girl had to work in the morning!
On the morning of my birthday, at 6:22 A.M., I was stirred awake by the sound of my phone vibrating. I sat up straight in a panic & answered the call. My heart rate began to settle as I heard a piano playing & my oldest brother's voice singing, "Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear Megan, Happy Birthday to You!" Calling family members on their birthdays to sing them the birthday song has been a bit of a tradition for my family. I remember as a child, Mom would round up all six of us kids to sing Happy Birthday to our aunts, uncles, & grandparents. Now that my siblings & I are all grown up, we have continued this tradition for each other. My mom called to sing to me the morning of my birthday, as did my oldest sister.
I didn't want an elaborate party, I just wanted to do something for myself in the stillness of the mountains & trees. I wanted time to reflect on my 28th year & to dream about my 29th. I began with a hike through Cheyenne Mountain State Park in the morning, made complete by a giant slice of vanilla birthday cake that I ate from a bench on the trail. How interesting to think about how much I have learned from 27 to 28, and now from 28 to 29. You never stop learning & I am looking forward to the lessons 29 will teach me. I've actually started carrying a pad of paper & pen with me wherever I go, so when I have a thought or memory that I want to remember, I can jot it down to reference it later. I keep one in my car, on my nightstand, & in my hiking bag. I sat on a rock in the wind, reading old thoughts & writing new ones. Even though rainclouds were beginning to show up, it was wonderful to sit still, breathe in the mountain air, & let my mind quietly wander.
When the rain actually started to sprinkle, I headed back into town to take myself to a movie. I really wanted to see The Jungle Book, but I didn't want to wait around for two hours for the next showtime. I opted to see The Boss because I'd heard great things & I love Melissa McCarthy. Let's just say that I'm glad I saw it on a Tuesday & the ticket was only $5.75.
All day long, I had been craving a corleone from work... it's a ball of vanilla bean ice-cream rolled in crushed graham crackers, nutmeg, cinnamon, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, & nuts, with a local honey-glaze drizzle on top. Now you're craving one too, aren't you!? Breana covered my shift so I could have my birthday off--even though she had covered my shifts all weekend for my Gunnison road trip--I have to shout out to her for being such an amazing coworker & friend! I am so grateful for her & for all of the people that I work with at The Blue Star!
I parked behind the building & walked in through the kitchen entrance. You all need to know how wonderful & talented the Heart of House is at Blue -- these guys are my heroes! I walked in the doors & each one of them gave me a hug & told me happy birthday. My heart could have exploded, they made me feel so loved just by their kindness alone!
Kirsten, my friend & coworker, along with my favorite Colorado transplant, John, met me at Blue for what was supposed to be just dessert. But, my work-husband, Jacob, surprised me with a butternut squash carbonara for dinner. Yes, it was incredible! When it came time for dessert, Jacob came up to the table & told us he had the ingredients to whip up cookies to accompany the corleone. My eyes turned to hearts when Jacob said he could make chocolate chip cookies. And oh em geeeee were the cookies amazing. Wow. No one could even speak as we smothered the cookies in ice cream & ate every last crumb. Absolute Heaven on earth, people. January, Lauren, & Richard were bartending that evening, so I had a Pepo Margarita (cucumber-infused tequila!), Lemon Meringue Martini (complete with housemade whipped cream), & a Bartender's Mocha (coffee, Bailey's, & chocolate syrup, shaken & served neat). As if all that love wasn't enough, when the bill arrived, I noticed it was incredibly cheap for a not-so-cheap restaurant. My friends & coworkers had taken care of the majority of the bill, and John took care of the difference himself. Cue the feels, guys, cue the feels.
Here's why: I am fiercely independent & I enjoy taking care of myself. I don't need (or necessarily want) anyone to take care of me, because I am perfectly content to meet my needs on my own -- even on my birthday. I don't have the expectation when I wake up on April 26 every year to be catered to or spoiled like it's my right just because I was born. On my birthday, I want to spend time with myself & with people that I love. We could play hopscotch in the park or sit around reading books together & that would be more than enough. My Colorado family & friends are mostly restaurant servers, cooks, & hosts. We all work really hard for our money. So when these people open up their hearts & wallets to show me love on my birthday, that gets me emotional. I know how many tables it takes to cover the cost of a cocktail & dessert. I know how hard these people have worked, both through personal experience & from quiet observation. Yet none of these people even batted an eye when it came time for the bill. Even writing about it now is getting me choked up, because I felt so immensely loved on my birthday & I know that love will continue for years to come. I am so grateful, so blessed, to know each of you.
After being stuffed with cocktails, food, & dessert, I went to Bri & Drew's house for a traditional birthday shot of whiskey. I had not seen these two since our lunch date two weeks ago, so it was wonderful to see them & hug them both. They shine so bright & always make me laugh -- these two are my Colorado ride-or-dies! The gift of their friendship has taught me so much about life & relationships, whether we were having heart-to-heart talks or being silly together. When I arrived at their house, Bri was showing me her new canopy bed. When she turned around, she was holding a giant, fuzzy Colorado state flag blanket! It is quite possibly the most beautiful thing I have ever laid my eyes on AND it matches with every other Colorado state flag item I own... My bed is now entirely decked out in Colorado gear!
The night ending with the gift of a Colorado state flag blanket was so perfect, because moving to Colorado is the best decision I have ever made for myself. I wouldn't be the woman that I am now without having moved here. Colorado reminds me of where I've been, how far I've come, & of the many more journeys left ahead for me to take. This week especially, I have been so grateful for those paths. I had to stop myself on Tuesday, to pause while my brain comprehended that this is really my life. I don't deserve these amazing people or this fantastic city that I live in, but that is why I am so grateful. I am so blessed.
When I got home & into my comfy Colorado sweatpants, I finally took the time to peek through my Facebook notifications for the day -- and wow. I smiled & cried a lot. Such a simple gesture to type "Happy Birthday," yet such a magnitude of impact. The Facebook messages, phone calls, Snapchats, & txt messages were so humbling. I have never felt so overwhelmed by genuine love. My roommate txt me the morning of my birthday and said, "I hope you feel abundantly loved today!" and trust me, I did.
Life is such a precious, wonderful gift. An adventure with endless possibilities. Friends, thank you for making this my best birthday yet. Bring it, 29!
Megan Elizabeth is a storyteller based in Kalispell, Montana. Take a peek at her blog & portfolio, drop her a line, & follow her story on Facebook & Instagram.