Alright. Let’s do this.
For the first dozen years of my life, birthdays were pretty awesome things. You get to have as many friends as you want over. They all bring you presents. You get to eat cake and ice cream. What more could a kid want?
Over the past three decades since I was 12, though, I’ve grown more and more unwilling to share the “significance” of that day with the general public.
At first, it was the disappointment. After the age of 12, the grandeur of the day never seemed to live up to my sense of entitlement. It was, after all, my birthday. Why wasn’t it all going the way I wanted it too? I slowly came to understand that no matter how much I (or my family and friends) wanted to build the day up into something special for me, my birthday was really just another day. In hindsight, that seems like a giant “Duh!” but it was hard let go of my desire for a day that was all about me.
Later came the realization that, after a certain point, birthdays stop being an achievement or milestone, and just start being a reminder that you’re getting older. After the age of 21, everything that is legal is now an acceptable option to you. Sure, we talk about how the decade marks (30, 40, etc.) are big deals, but you aren’t granted any special status at those ages. Until you turn 65 (for now), all of your birthdays are just a celebration that you survived another year. Yip-a-dee-#&@$ing-do.
So, with each year, I became more and more reserved about it. By the time I turned thirty, I was positively mum. Apart from my family and a few close friends, very few people are aware when it occurs. I block it from appearing on social network sites and forums. A small family dinner is the only thing that really marks the occasion.
By now it should be pretty clear where I’m going with this. Today, April 30, is my birthday. And, having written all of that, why am I announcing it here for all
five or six of you to read? Especially since it makes me feel so weirdly exposed?
Well, I’ve come to the conclusion that, like so many other things in my life, it’s time for a change. My reasons for obscuring this were pretty poor to start with, and continuing to do so would be allowing a toe-hold for isolation to remain. I don’t want that. I’m a better man when I’m not hiding.
It’s important for me to publicly and personally celebrate my birthday.
It has to be public, precisely because it isn’t all about me. By keeping it quiet, and forcing my wife and kids to do the same, I denied everyone else the opportunity to bless me. I’ve stolen from them moments to share in my life, to be generous to me, to show me love. Just as my disappointment came out of my selfishness, so did my withdrawal. By trying to avoid pain, I was depriving others of joy.
It has to be personal, precisely because each year is a milestone. Everyone has accepted January 1 as a universal day to reset and renew, if you will, but think about it. Your birthday is really your New Year’s Day. That’s the day when you should be setting goals for your next year. (I’ve got to give credit where it’s due, here. Zack over at BA Expat helped to clarify this for me.) I can choose to take time to reflect on the previous year, and plan for what I want to have done by my next birthday, so it stops being about age and starts being about growth.
So, yes, today is my birthday. Feel free to say something nice, and I’ll do my very best not to wince. No, you won’t see it on facebook or anywhere else (maybe next year). I’ll share my goals for the upcoming year in the next couple of weeks.
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