Celebrating milestones like birthdays or even meeting your exercise goals offers you the opportunity to recognize achievements, honor life transitions, and bring you closer to those you love in the process. As life goes on, we don’t always take time to honor our accomplishments and the big question is: Why did we stop?
Becky Shaw of Louisville has always been intentional when making plans and this includes celebrating her milestone moments. “I have my grandmother’s philosophy that was ‘plan and push,’” Becky says. This generational wisdom was the motivation behind her overseas trips for her 50th and 60th birthdays. Becky has traveled to countries like Turkey, Greece, and Italy. “It was amazing to walk the streets of Ephesus,” she says. It’s this sense of wonder she keeps close and why she’s making plans for her next milestone this year — her 70th birthday.
Becky says she wants to recognize these life moments in an exceptional way by seeing “bigger and better.” So, she organizes unusual trips to create a memorable experience. “Carson from Downton Abbey says, ‘The business of life is the acquisition of memories. In the end that’s all there is.’ Isn’t that a great quote?” she says. Studies show that our memories can contribute to our sense of well-being and storing up some good ones can even reduce stress.
Becky says she feels more energized while taking her trips. “I have to meet everyone. There’s not a person on that bus or boat that’s not going to know me,” she says. Making friends and experiencing new cultures keep Becky’s love of traveling growing, but part of the excitement, too, is in the planning. “It’s something to look forward to which I think is key,” Becky says. Having an event to anticipate can boost your mood and increase feelings of optimism and that’s why Becky encourages you not to put off making your travel plans. “If we don’t plan it’s not going to happen,” she says.
There are so many ways to plan your very own milestone celebration like throwing a party, preparing an extravagant meal, or perhaps organizing a secret little something just for you. Tawana Edwards felt moved to honor a big life achievement in a private way — a way she never would have predicted. “I’ve always had this phobia about needles,” Tawana says. As a little girl, she remembers hiding from the doctors giving her a tetanus shot, and her anxiety surrounding needles continued into adulthood.
At 37 years old, Tawana was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma — cancer that starts in the white blood cells. Her treatment included chemotherapy, radiation, and eventually a bone marrow transplant — all of which involved needles. Years later, when Tawana was declared cancer-free, she thought about ways she could honor her journey, asking herself what she could do to acknowledge that she conquered cancer — and the needles. “So, I decided to ask someone to do needle work on me,” Tawana says.
Just before her 50th birthday, Tawana got her first tattoo. Keeping this significant moment to herself, Tawana went alone to the tattoo studio. “I didn’t do it for anyone else but me,” she explains. A loose translation of “Tawana” in the Cherokee language means “morning star,” so she chose a blue-shaped star to be tattooed on her lower back. “It was like a statement of what I’d gone through and what I’d beaten,” she says.
Honoring your life experiences is one way to honor yourself. “I’ve learned things without a doubt,” Becky begins, “it’s not only about seeing the world, but it’s about getting out of your comfort zone.” Tawana adds it’s important to celebrate transitions and to mark them in some way. She doesn’t regret getting her tattoo and says in doing so, “I was facing my fear and saying, ‘Look, this really is behind me.’ I really did feel like I was done being afraid.”
By Tonilyn Hornung
P.S. Say ‘yes’ to life.