The Birthday Challenge
If your childhood was anything like mine, birthday parties were preceded by a thrilling period of anticipation and followed by a mild case of post-party depression. A day of playing hostess, eating frosting, and unwrapping presents that looked better with the wrapping on tended to leave me more drained than elated. In later years, I stopped trying to make my birthday a day to remember forever, and mostly, it was a relief, except that the little kid within me still wanted to be on top of the world for a day. And then I discovered the birthday challenge.
One day last summer, I received an email from a friend. “For my 30th birthday,” he wrote, “I will attempt to surf 30 waves, climb 30 boulder problems, mountain bike 30 miles, sit in two hot springs for 30 minutes each, and run 30 kilometers, all within a span of 30 hours.” His email included a link to birthday
challenge.com. “A birthday challenge,” the site read, “is a goal, generally in the form of physical achievement, to make your birthday more memorable than the last.” Bingo. Exactly what I’d always yearned for: a party that would do justice to the experience of being alive. The game was on.
A few months later, I joined the cheering squad for another brand of birthday challenge-the Milpas Taco Crawl (effesseye.info/mtcc/index.html), wherein the birthday boy ate his way from La Super-Rica Taqueria to Arturo’s Taqueria near the batting cages, taco by taco. Challenging, but not my style.
With my own 28th looming, I settled on the following: Before my birthday, I would commission 28 original poems from my friends. On the day itself, I would run 28 kilometers, receive 28 kisses, and throw a party with at least 28 in attendance. I challenged my guests, too: In place of a gift, bring 28 of any item to the party.
I’ll admit that at about kilometer 25, I wondered what I’d gotten myself into. But that balmy afternoon at Shoreline Park, surrounded by friends, serenaded by poems, and spoiled with a slew of creative 28s, success and brownies had never tasted so sweet, and life was most definitely something to celebrate.