This cake-shaped zine may help you have your happiest birthday yet : Life Kit No matter how old you are, having a happy birthday is one of life's great pleasures, says birthday enthusiast Tamar Hurwitz-Fleming. You just need to figure out what that means for you.

This cake-shaped zine may help you have your happiest birthday yet

This cake-shaped zine may help you have your happiest birthday yet

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No matter how old you are, having a happy birthday is one of life's great pleasures, says Tamar Hurwitz-Fleming, author of How to Have a Happy Birthday. Click here to download this cake-shaped zine to print and fold at home — the back has helpful birthday tips. Zine by Malaka Gharib/NPR; Photo illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR hide caption

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Zine by Malaka Gharib/NPR; Photo illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR

No matter how old you are, having a happy birthday is one of life's great pleasures, says Tamar Hurwitz-Fleming, author of How to Have a Happy Birthday. Click here to download this cake-shaped zine to print and fold at home — the back has helpful birthday tips.

Zine by Malaka Gharib/NPR; Photo illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR

Tamar Hurwitz-Fleming knows what it's like to have special birthdays and not-so-great birthdays, like her 18th birthday as a freshman in college.

"I woke up, was excited for the phone calls from my family wishing me a happy birthday, but the calls never came," she says.

A couple years later, she decided to do things differently. "My birthday was going to be up to me. I took the day off classes, walked through town and bought myself a gift. It was a lovely day," she says.

Hurwitz-Fleming is a birthday enthusiast and author of the book How to Have a Happy Birthday, published in January. No one teaches you how to have a birthday as an adult, she says. When you're a kid, your family makes all those decisions for you. Then you grow up and "you have to make your [own] birthday happen."

No matter how old you are, having a happy birthday is one of life's great pleasures, she says. You just need to figure out what that means for you and put a plan in motion. Here's how to transform your birthday into a moment worth celebrating.

In this charming cake-shaped zine, Hurwitz-Fleming shares her must-do principles for having a happy birthday. Click here to download this cake-shaped zine to print and fold at home. Zine by Malaka Gharib/NPR; Photo illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Zine by Malaka Gharib/NPR; Photo illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR

In this charming cake-shaped zine, Hurwitz-Fleming shares her must-do principles for having a happy birthday. Click here to download this cake-shaped zine to print and fold at home.

Zine by Malaka Gharib/NPR; Photo illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR

Think of your birthday as your own personal holiday

Some of us expect friends or family to take the lead on celebrating our birthday, says Hurwitz-Fleming. "We often sit back and wait for other people to do for us what we can only do for ourselves."

Instead, take the reins on your special day. "If we want to celebrate our birthdays with joy, we have to take charge of our day and honor ourselves," she says.

Start with just one step: do something that you want to do. Maybe it's a big bash, attended by every human you know. Or something more intimate, like drinks with a few friends.

If you don't like the attention of birthdays, do something just for you. Take yourself on a backpacking trip, sign up for a special class or go on that whale watching excursion you've been meaning to go on.

And if there's serious stuff going on in your life when your birthday rolls around, show yourself some compassion. Treat yourself to a massage, or just curl up on the couch at home with a slice of funfetti cake.

Prepare for it like it's Thanksgiving

Think of your birthday as your own personal holiday, says Hurwitz-Fleming. And like any other holiday, that requires some prep "in the same way you're not going to wake up on Thanksgiving and expect a turkey on your table and friends to show up."

Use the weeks leading up to your birthday to make plans and address anything you will need, like getting tickets to a show, reserving a table at a restaurant or buying your cake.

Click here to download this cake-shaped zine to print and fold at home. Zine by Malaka Gharib/NPR; Photo illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Zine by Malaka Gharib/NPR; Photo illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR

Click here to download this cake-shaped zine to print and fold at home.

Zine by Malaka Gharib/NPR; Photo illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR

Tell your friends, family ... even strangers!

As you're planning your birthday, share that vision with other people, says Hurwitz-Fleming. This can help ensure that when your special day arrives, you won't feel forgotten.

Tell your loved ones your birthday is on its way and let them know if there are specific ways they can be involved. For example, ask friends and family to help plan your party or save the date to do something together, like go on a hike or to a concert.

On the actual day, Hurwitz-Fleming likes to tell strangers it's her birthday. "Sometimes I will be at a store buying my birthday gift and I will tell the person behind the counter that it's my birthday. They always light up. Everybody's happy for people on their birthdays."

Remember that aging is a privilege

Birthdays mean we're one year older. And if you have feelings about that, think of it this way, says Hurwitz-Fleming: "Aging is a privilege and a joy. I have so much more wisdom and self-confidence and comfort with myself at the age of 58 than I did 30 years ago."

The whole point of having a happy birthday is that it softens you and makes you kinder, she says — to yourself and to others.


The digital story was written by Malaka Gharib and edited by Meghan Keane. The visual editor is Beck Harlan. We'd love to hear from you. Leave us a voicemail at 202-216-9823, or email us at LifeKit@npr.org.

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