I’m not good at birthdays I do not post birthday messages on my friends’ Facebook pages. I rarely remember to send any sort of message. My kids’ birthday parties are organized with minimal effort. In fact, I have 4 kids but we only do 2 birthday parties. We force them to consolidate birthday parties. Isn’t that terrible?
For my own birthday, who cares? I can’t even remember how old I’m turning. I do enjoy a few important birthday rituals however:
If possible, I like to take the day off.
I look forward to a phone call from my friend Lindsey. SHE IS THE ONLY HUMAN WHO STILL CALLS ME ON MY BIRTHDAY. My parents do not even bother with this formality. Lindsey is good at birthdays.
I like to go to the library or bookstore, spend some time browsing, and pick out a new book.
I like to drink wine with close friends.
Last year, I was not able to fulfill all of my birthday wishes. I had to work. I had to take two of my kids to the bookstore with me which greatly limited my browsing abilities. My babysitter didn’t show up when it was time for the wine drinking.
This year, I had to bump my birthday ritual up one day because the kids were out of school on my actual birthday and who wants to spend their birthday with a bunch of little kids? Not me. I had a nice breakfast, got a massage, and, after swinging by the school to eat a grateful soup with one of the kids (my birthday is close to Thanksgiving), I made it to Magic City Books.
I knew what book I wanted but I browsed anyway, perusing titles while I searched for the book I came to buy. Eventually, I had to ask for help finding it because my browsing was cutting into my allotted reading time. The bookseller pulled it down from a back stock shelf and handed it to me. The book was “I Might Regret This” by Abbi Jacobson and it was SIGNED. What a gift!
It was also the bookstore’s birthday and they had cupcakes so I grabbed one and sat down for a short reading session. Does this sound like a luxury? It is. I NEVER give myself time to read during the middle of the day. There is always something more important that I should be doing. I reserve reading for bedtime, which results in me not getting very much reading done because I can’t stay awake. I end up doing what I like to call ‘reading with my eyes closed’, which is what happens when I try to convince myself that I’m going to open my eyes again and keep reading so I leave my glasses on and keep holding the book open despite the fact that I am definitely asleep.
So, I spent a few minutes with my new book and I could tell I was going to enjoy it. I’m a little skeptical of celebrity autobiographies. Was it really written by them? Is it a publicity ploy? I was disappointed in Amy Poehler’s ‘Yes, Please’. Throughout the book she writes about being stressed out about writing the book and convinces friends like Seth Meyers to contribute content so as to fill pages. It was funny but, as the eager reader, I felt like I had personally inconvenienced her by supplying demand for a book she didn’t really want to write.
I didn’t know what to expect from ‘I Might Regret This’. I knew the book centered around a solo road trip and I’m into that. I knew she had visited places like Asheville, Austin, and Marfa and I was interested to hear her impressions. I hoped, as one part of the dynamic Broad City duo, that she would reflect on the super-power of female friendship.
“I Might Regret This’ is not the work of travel writing I expected. Rather, the places are background, mile markers, to her inner dialogue as she searches for an antidote to her broken heart. Her notes on the cities she visits are minimal. Often the location is only mentioned in passing, followed by a litany of worries keeping her awake past midnight in her hotel room.
I can relate to this type of travel. Once, only days after a sudden breakup, I decided I had to get out of town. I loaded my dog and headed south to Austin, TX, over the Fourth of July weekend. It seemed like a good idea. It did not occur to me that 14 hours in a car, alone with my thoughts, my brain stuck on replay, would do little to soothe my nerves. I plowed through the weekend in a manic state, forgetting to eat, waking from sleep with that feeling that something is wrong but you’ve forgotten what it is for a minute. Then you remember what it is and you wish you hadn’t.
In "I Might Regret This”, Jacobson uses the trip to reflect on matters as petty as teacup saucers, and as heavy as her parents’ divorce. She does not relay everything she saw, ate and did on her adventure. She admits to eating at Whole Foods most of the time, and holing up in her hotel room with The West Wing in Memphis. Her solo road trip wasn’t about seeing the sights. It was about taking the time, and finding the space, to care for herself.
Though the book is not a travelogue, it ends with a beautiful manifesto on love and travel that I think is worth sharing, in part:
“It’s okay to not see all the art and not meet all the locals and not walk all the famous walks or hear all the indie bands in the coolest venue in town. It’s okay to go to sleep early and spend too long finding the good coffee spot but not seeing the historical sights. It’s okay. It’s okay to not figure it all out. It’s okay to feel broken and alone and scared sometimes. . . It’s okay to not eat where everyone tells you to, or not take a sefie in front of everything you’ve seen or done and post on the internet for friends and strangers to see. . . It’s okay if it’s not all amazing or incredible or spectacular. . . It’s okay.”
Do yourself a favor, buy it for yourself here: