Illustrations by María Alconada Brooks

Last year, I set out to do something hard — finally kick my cigarette habit. I had been smoking on and off (let’s be real, mostly on) for the better part of a decade. After “quitting” unsuccessfully a dozen times, I decided to approach it a bit differently. For me, this looked like: easing into it (versus quitting cold turkey), taking a prescription medication to alleviate the side effects and celebrating each month not smoking with a small treat. I mean, who doesn’t get motivated by treats?

Soon, I found myself not smoking for one month … then two … then six. With each month that passed, I got more momentum to keep going. Before I knew it, this past July, I made it to one year of no smoking. It was really difficult, but I’m so proud of myself for doing a hard thing. And in a pandemic nonetheless. I wanted to celebrate!

I thought about quietly acknowledging it, like I had been doing every month (rewarding myself with a new sour beer or a book, for example), but that didn’t feel like enough. This was bigger — it deserved something more, something special. I also wanted to celebrate with my friends, especially after not being able to see many of them during the pandemic.

So, in July, I hosted a small gathering of friends at a nearby park to celebrate my “Smokiversary” — or, more accurately, “The Year of No Smoking.” Celebrating this milestone with the people I love inspired me to think about other ways we can celebrate other unconventional milestones, big events that go beyond graduating or having a baby or getting married. I think we should keep celebrating those, too, but consider including more unique, individual milestones as well.

An upcoming milestone I’m excited to celebrate is two years of being single. This is a huge accomplishment for me. I plan on celebrating this by taking myself to a nice solo dinner.

After posting about my “Year of No Smoking” on my Instagram, many of my friends had other great ideas for milestones to celebrate. You can find eight ideas below.

And if you want to hear more about making your own milestones, you can listen to an interview I did with Rob Ferrett of Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Central Time” in August. I also want to know: What are you celebrating? Email me at rachel.orr@washpost.com.

The anniversary of moving to a new place

Take some time to celebrate what you love about where you live. I’m still figuring out exactly how to celebrate the eight years I’ve been living in D.C., but it will probably involve some of my favorite things about the city. Some ideas: Revisit the first restaurant you ate at (if it still exists) or take a walk and revisit memories of years past.

Paying off debt

I have yet to celebrate this one, and I don’t want to endorse celebrating by buying something, but my current plan to celebrate paying off student loans is to take myself on a solo trip. It’s something that has felt out of reach, and it just feels right to pair it with a big milestone. An Instagram follower mentioned that she keeps the monthly payment on her calendar and does a fist pump every month because “she did that!” I love that one.

Leaving a job

In my experience, the decision to leave a job isn’t as hard as the actual act of doing so. On your last official day, mark the occasion with a special drink or dinner. Even better if it’s with someone who’s championed your career. Talk about what you’re looking forward to in the next chapter.

Coming out

For me, coming out as queer was a process, and I’m still working on being comfortable with being “out.” Celebrate however feels right to you — whether it’s something small like buying a queer sticker, watching a queer show or going to a queer bar to meet other people.

The anniversary of a significant loss

I consider myself lucky to not have had too many significant losses in my life so far, but my Instagram followers had ideas for this one. One person suggested setting up an altar to place objects that are reminders of the person you lost around your house. Another suggested eating their favorite meal or simply playing their favorite song.

Going on a new first date

Whether you’re going on a new date after a breakup or after a stint of being single, getting the courage to put yourself out there is a huge deal! Celebrate by putting on your favorite song to dance it out, or write down how you’re feeling so you can revisit it later.

The anniversary of the start of a friendship

It’s always struck me as odd that it’s so common to celebrate a relationship anniversary but not a friendship one. As a single person, my friendships have outlasted those romantic relationships. And they are special in their own right. We should celebrate those platonic connections, whether it’s a new friend or a lifelong one. Celebrate by writing out what your friend means to you or by sending them a small gift.

The anniversary of adopting a pet

I had never had a pet of my own before, so adopting both of my cats was a big deal. Not only is it a large daily commitment — it’s a commitment for years. Celebrate with your pet. To celebrate my one-year anniversary with my first cat, Pringle, I bought him a bird feeder for the window. I also told him all my favorite things about him.

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