How Do I Celebrate?

Winner of the SMIAH Grand Prize Writing Contest 2021


For many years I found myself waiting to celebrate. Waiting to ‘arrive’ at some culturally predetermined milestone that would be worthy of fanfare. The first one I reached (graduation) felt anti-climactic, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. Maybe it was because many of my friends had been in the grade ahead of me, so I felt lonely. Or perhaps it was because I’d moved out of my home early to be closer to the studio where I taught piano, so I’d stolen some of that momentum early.

It wasn’t until I graduated from university that I finally discovered my answer. School wasn’t hard for me. It didn’t require much because organization and upholding expectations is built into the fiber of who I am. I didn’t feel like celebrating because subconsciously I knew there wasn’t anything for me to celebrate, regardless of how the world around me viewed these endpoints.

That was the moment where my idea of milestones worthy of celebration shifted. In that moment, I decided I would never celebrate the same way again. Cultural expectations about moments worthy of celebration were—for me—put to rest. I started looking for my personal celebratory moments, and once I opened my eyes? They were everywhere. They were in the throwing my legs over the side of the bed moments when I wished I could stay asleep. The asking for help moments when I really wished I had all the answers. The ‘doing it anyway’ moments when I desperately wanted to give up and take the more comfortable path. The apology moments when I was embarrassed or felt like I’d been the one wronged in the first place.

Since you asked for specifics, I thought I’d share ten things I’ve celebrated in the last week.

  • A monarch caterpillar FINALLY finding its way to my milkweed plants

  • A moment when I listened to my fifteen-year-old instead of telling him he was wrong (he was, by the way. Ha!)

  • Putting my phone away and talking to my husband instead of reading that article I was interested in

  • Coming to a conference where I knew nobody!

  • Entering my book into the CIPPA EVVY awards

  • Ignoring the mess in the kitchen to finish my chapter

  • Forgiving a friend for a hurtful comment

  • Driving without texting

  • Signing up for the pitch meetings even though I worry whether my work is good enough

  • Remembering to pack my toothbrush

How do I celebrate these things? With a smile, a kind thought to myself, a hug, a deep breath, and yes, sometimes a large piece of dark chocolate! These days, I celebrate something every single day, and when the world clamors loudly that ‘It’s your fifteenth anniversary! It’s time to celebrate!’ I smile, take a large piece of cake, and think, ‘I already have.’


- Cindy Gunderson, SMIAH 2021



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