The best gift of all: experiences

Houston McLaury-

Well Gusties, we’re in March now. The rest of the school year is upon us, with mountains of work, events, and things to see. Something that we will no doubt face as the year moves onward is the birthday. An annual celebration (one I sadly have to celebrate a few weeks after the new year has been bought in), I don’t spend my time looking forward to what may come my way in the physical sense. Instead, I yearn for the sweet and thoughtful experiences I get to share with my friends and family. Hopefully, the next time you have to plan a birthday, you can surprise whoever you’re celebrating by taking them to somewhere they’ve never been, or somewhere they’ve wanted to go for years but haven’t actually been able to visit.

For example, my family comes down to St. Peter for my birthday, and have been since I’ve been going to Gustavus. When they come down, I tend to get to choose the places. Namesakes of St. Peter, like Patrick’s on Third, Third Street Pub, and the Nicollet Cafe, have been past selections, yes. But the highlight is getting to see everybody. To see them, talk in person, and laugh at all the jokes we make is a great experience that I hope I’ll always remember.

The great part about being able to go to a place and hang out is that you can do it as a group of people. Planning a day trip or a night of fun for a loved one can be just the right gift to give them on their birthday, forming lifelong memories with your friends as you go out to explore. I know in my case, with my birthday being so close to winter break, my family’s and I’s catch-up is pretty brief since it’s about two weeks after I last saw them. But the idea of going out to catch up and make memories with your loved ones is still valid for all birthdays, no matter the time of year this occurs. It’s especially helpful in the later months of the semester when the course load becomes heavier and heavier as we wade into the annual finals season.

Then of course, if you’re like me and my friends, adding a hint of surprise towards where you are going always adds to the enjoyment that comes from these little outings. Take my most recent birthday: after a few weeks of waiting, my friends picked me up from St. Peter and drove me towards the cities. Although I kept asking about what we would be doing, and where we’d be spending most of our time, they did not give me so much as a hint. Even when we pulled into the parking lot of The Cafe Meow, I still had no idea what we would be doing. Needless to say, I’m quite oblivious to most things. They had booked our little group to go into the cat cafe and we hung around with all the cats for a while, and they bought me a coffee as well. It was a great time because we were able to enjoy the time playing and petting the different cats there with each other.

Now, would I have had such a great time if I had known about where we were going right away? No, I’d say the suspense added to my experience and to the fun of being driven to an unknown location. The surprise of where they were taking me made the experience all the more fun. Consider surprising your friend on their birthday, either through a small get-together or through a spot they’ll surely love.

There is also the location that must be chosen for the birthday. The location is probably the most important part of this gift of experience; without considering what your friend will like, you risk giving them a poor experience. While being together is a gift enough, it’s wonderful to give them something you know they’ll enjoy. Recently, I was able to celebrate my friend’s 21st birthday by taking them to the Minnesota Zoo. Again, we surprised them with the location and considered every possible area they may have wanted to visit. After nights of discussion and weighing the pros and cons, we chose the zoo because they hadn’t been there since the seventh grade and because of their love for animals.

While it might be tempting and easy to simply stay on campus, or stay in your dorm room to celebrate a birthday, never dismiss the call to adventure. The experiences that come from these outings will last a lifetime if you give it the chance. Don’t stay locked in your room, go out and experience the fullness of life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *