On my 29th birthday, my friend handed me a box of vegan cupcakes from Baked by Melissa, a New York City based bakery that specializes in mini, bite-sized cupcakes. A few years ago, they began offering vegan cupcakes but I hadn’t tried them yet, a fact I relayed to my vegan friend with delight. “I actually haven’t had any Baked By Melissa since my 22nd birthday…” and I felt myself trailing off as the memory floored me.
May 2016. I had been living in New York City for five months and, turning 22, was about to celebrate my first birthday away from home. The community I had cultivated in those five months made the day so special—one group of which were the collection of colleagues at one of my jobs who handed me a box of Baked By Melissa cupcakes.
Bakery treats, forever my favorite, felt like an extravagant treat for someone working multiple jobs and living in an apartment with more roommates than bedrooms. One of those roommates, a fellow transplant, was also heavy in “hustle mode” and the two of us were determined to make our mark on the city and our respective fields. Maybe it was those similarities that made what we did next simply “make sense.”
For a week, my roommate and I split one cupcake a day, savoring the sugary flavors and debating whether it was better or worse than the ones we’d already tried. If you’re jumping into this post at this paragraph, it sounds like a sweet, logical story. For those unfamiliar with Baked By Melissa, though, I truly cannot emphasize enough how “bite-sized” they are. This is not a dessert designed to be shared.
And yet. For a week after my birthday, we made them impossibly smaller and ritualistically cheered the frosting, as if to draw out the celebration together. As if to savor the messy togetherness of 22.
My mind leapt forward again to present day where a group of friends lounged around me in my apartment. I recounted the story to polite laughter and a suggestion that I just eat a whole cupcake by myself this time around. And while I did—eat allllll the cupcakes—I also found myself looking back with such grateful nostalgia for those early city years. Those early 20s.
The scrappy, community-focused, silly, recklessly ambitious years where I blew out a Yankee candle because we didn’t have birthday candles and watched a movie with two of the four strangers I’d just moved in with. Strangers turned roommates turned friends. I found myself looking back with gratitude for the way we shared all our celebrations and our joys. For the ways we leaned on each other in heartbreak and frustrations. The way we were all always on each other's team.
The cupcakes had changed. They’re vegan now. The apartment and the neighborhood were new. The people around me had shifted. People had moved out and moved on. But it was in staring at the tie dye cupcake logo that I realized I had changed too.
In my kitchen, I have a collection of birthday candles and the ingredients to make a cake at any time. I have one roommate instead of four. I don’t need to cut mini cupcakes in half.
But I still like to drag out a celebration.
And I still like to sip slowly and savor. I still feel really lucky that I get to live where I live and do what I do and spend time with the people I spend time with. There are many, many things that change. And still many more that stay the same.
It is altogether both humbling and motivating to look back at a seven-years-younger me, summoning a stranger turned roommate turned friend into the kitchen for the ceremonial evening cupcake. To think about what seven-years-future me might think about this version. But I like to think she’d be just as proud of my current self as my current self is of my past self. We did it, dear heart, fueled by cupcakes and love.