thanks, friends

Neil D sending off a birthday wish. photo cred: Hayato Takahashi

If you had asked me 20 years ago how I would spend my 33rd birthday, I probably wouldn’t have said sitting in the dark in my living room, with a circle of my friends singing “Patience” by Guns N Roses, or sending sky lanterns off into the February Wisconsin sky, with wine soaked wishes for my year ahead. I probably wouldn’t have guessed my friends would “surprise” me by stripping down to their underwear, lighting candles, and waltzing into the living room to sing their very special version of Happy Birthday, and I probably wouldn’t have thought I would catch them in the kitchen afterward, proudly high-fiving and congratulating themselves on how they “nailed it.”

(Side note: My friends enjoy being in their underwear more than any other human beings I know. It’s become almost normal in a very strange way, and you just learn to roll with it. Once I opened the door to a new friend and had to explain the half-dressed folks inside were not hired, but this was just the natural progression of the night. I swear to you, we are all highly functioning people separately in the real world, but put us all in a room together for a weekend and stuff gets weird.)

No, 20 years ago, this is definitely not how I would have guessed I would spend my 33rd birthday.

My dad once mentioned how strange it was that I was still close to so many of my friends. People at my age start pairing off, making their own little families, and the chunk in the Pie of Life available for friend time gets smaller and smaller. And while many did pair off, that somehow just strengthened the circle. Some got engaged. Married. Babies. Through it all, we made an effort (which felt more like no effort at all) to still be a part of each other’s lives, planning snowboarding trips, summer cabin weekends, holiday dinner parties, birthday getaways. Though we’re bound to fade with time, right now my friend family is still going strong. And as I looked around the room on Saturday night, I was overcome with happiness they all took a little pause from their own lives to celebrate the new year of mine.

They say you have two families: the one you are born into and the one you choose to surround yourself with. And I have one hell of a chosen family. The reality of my 33rd birthday was so much better than anything I could have imagined 20 years ago, because that was before all of these wonderfully weird, completely awkward, ridiculously hilarious, very inappropriate people found a permanent place in my Pie of Life.

Thanks, guys. I love you all.

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