I have a love-hate relationship with birthdays. I love the discounts, free stuff, and extra dessert with no judgement. I hate the hyper-focused attention on me, specifically when people are singing the happy birthday song. My family always had them sing half out of embarrassment and half because we got a free dessert. My love of free stuff is a family thing.
When I got older, I could refuse the attention. I’m really glad my friends aren’t the kind of people to make me suffer through something I hate for a pile of vanilla ice cream. I mean, get a better dessert if you’re going to ruin my meal by demanding the entire restaurant stare at me.
But there is one birthday tradition I love: a birthday letter.
Every year, I write a letter I tuck in the back of my journal. A letter to be opened on my birthday one year later. I find myself excited just to unfold the letter. I save it for the perfect moment of my day.
The first year, this letter was a premonition. I had to share it with other people because I couldn’t believe just how accurate it was. Everyone who read it was just as shocked as me. Everything I wrote about had happened in ways I never could have expected. Clearly this letter held a little bit of magic. So I wrote another one and have each year since.
Growing older is about surviving long enough to become who you’re supposed to be. These birthday letters have become a way to remember my big dreams and reflect on lessons I’ve learned. I get to see me, becoming. I get to honor the lessons I’ve accumulated that make each tomorrow better than today. Lessons that go unnoticed when you’re navigating a hard experience for the first time.
So instead of some list of lessons about living a better life this birthday, I want to encourage you to write a birthday letter. Hell, write one today and tuck it away for your next birthday. You can write about anything. You don’t need to make a list or create artificial deadlines. Write about how life feels today and how you want to feel when you unfold the letter next year. Just promise me you will say something kind to yourself.
There’s a gift in those letters, especially for adults who want to leave something behind for their family that is even more valuable than cash. I know I’d kill to read letters like this from my own grandmothers or family members that passed had those letters existed.
While I never plan to share my birthday letters to myself with the world, this week I shared letters in the form of a book. My book, This Was All An Accident, is now available on Amazon. You can buy it here.
Man, that still feels crazy to say: “my book.”
It’s a book about work, life, and the balance everyone pretends exists somewhere in the middle. It’s about lessons I wish I learned earlier in life. It’s about rules I had to break to love my life. I hope every person that’s struggling with society’s rules for life and living out loud gets to read.
Buy it as a gift, get a copy for yourself, and the book club. It’s my birthday, after all.
Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.
Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.
Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.