Titles by Kij Johnson are available for purchase online


When I turned fifty, Mark and Elizabeth threw a huge party. I wore a vintage dress and (as you see) a tiara, and many of my best friends came or skyped in. There was cake and presents and laughter and tea and coffee. I think it might have been the best birthday to date, though it’s hard to say. In 2010, I was climbing, I was dating, I was reveling in unemployment, I was prepping for a move across country and then grad school. 

This year was another milestone, but everything is different, of course. E is in Svalbard; I am not climbing (though I am at the gym a lot), not dating; very much employed, not moving anywhere in the near future. My big thing was going to be Lisa, who generously offered to fly out and spend the weekend with me. We made plans that were Kij-and Lisa specific — mostly eating, drinking, and shopping. But Friday’s ice storm meant the KC airport shut down; her flight was turned around over Montana somewhere and sent back to Seatac. There was no possibility of rescheduling, as every other flight to KC was booked solid with people coming for the playoff game Sunday. (I guess we won?)

I spent Friday and Saturday feeling sorry for myself. My sixtieth! Alone! I couldn’t even drive to Columbia to be soothed by Barbara (and possibly Seth), because the car still isn’t working properly. Even as I whined to myself, I recognized that this was a bit silly: I know lots of people in Lawrence, but I just couldn’t bring myself to contact them two days before my sixtieth birthday. (Plus, a bunch of them weren’t available in any case: a holiday weekend right before term starts. Plus, it wouldn’t be the saaaaaame.) So I gritted my teeth and braced myself for a lonely, horrible birthday. 

But then I remembered. I know I have true friends, friends I can trust, whom I love and who love me. We don’t need to prove this: we all prove it together, day after day and year after year. Further, I like my own company. It would have been fantastic to see Lisa, and it would have been fantastic to have a Lawrence birthday party or dinner or game day at RPG — but it’s also fantastic to be with myself. 

So yesterday, my Big Milestone Birthday, was totally not what I planned, and yet it was wonderful. Video calls and phone calls and texts and emails and avocado toast in the morning with a friend. Then I drove into KC and did exactly what I had planned with Lisa: shopped. I went to a giant antique mall and found an antique German silver purse in a booth that was shutting down, for $16. Then lots of bits and bobs at IKEA, and then $100 of bird food, and then home for carbonara and champagne and creepy horror stories by William Hope Hodgson. Was it great? Yes, yes it was. 

I have spent a lot of my adult life in therapy, wrestling with family-of-origin issues and depression and anxiety — and this, ultimately, is why: to help me with  trusting and staying flexible and honest with myself. So that when big plans fall apart, I can be happy and satisfied anyway.