When I was a kid, birthdays were easy. You invited your eight best friends and they all came unless there was some sort of horrible girl scout camping trip scheduling snafu. No one did not come to your birthday party when invited. Looking back on this, it may be that all of my friends in grade school had parents who raised them right and made them RSVP yes even if they didn't want to go - but I was blissfully optimistic when I was young.
In middle school things got dicier but it wasn't until my sweet 16 that I was worried about attendance at a party in my honor. Luckily, lots of people came and I had a great time but there were moments of abject fear that no one was going to show up and the Braddock Heights Community Room was going to be barren wasteland of uneaten pizza and my tears.
In college I didn't really throw birthday parties for myself. My 21st birthday had a moment where I thought no one was going to ever show up and considered just drinking myself into oblivion and becoming a homeless, drunk bum on the spot. But people showed (eventually) and it ended up being one of my most favorite birthdays.
And since moving to Chicago, for some reason, it was expected that I would throw myself a birthday party every year (with the exception of the first year when I could count the people I knew on one hand - that is a birthday story for another year). And every year I have dealt with the fear that no one will come to my birthday party.
It starts right around the two week prior mark where evite/facebook invites have gone out and only two or three people have responded. So I invite about 30 more people, most of whom I am not actually friends with, in the hopes that they will all say yes and then more people will think that this is going to be a fun party and decide to come. Then the paranoia hits its peak the day before the party when people start backing out like dump trucks in narrow alleys. Parents are in town, or there is a rehearsal or they are getting their hair did. I realize that no one loves me and I should give up now.
Has this ever been the case? No...of course not. My birthdays may have their fair share of drunk tears, but I always have fun. But that doesn't make the fear go away.
This year I am not having a party. Instead I am having a benefit. The organization I work for is having its annual gala the friday before my birthday. Last year (my first year with the organization) there was no gala, so this is my first one. And I am TERRIFIED. The gala was not my idea and my hand is not really even in the planning of it, but since my whole life is wrapped up in this place, if this gala fails - it will ruin my birthday.
I have no idea if its going to fail - or succeed. I've never done this before...but right now, three weeks out, its not looking good. And every day I check the mail - and the picture does not get any brighter. Again, this maybe normal, but it feels like it could be a birthday gone wrong that could turn me into a homeless, drunk bum.