Birthdays are inherently joyous occasions made even more special when surrounded by loved ones. Many people mark this occasion with month-long celebrations! They celebrate with their families, siblings, and different groups of friends, a date night with their spouse, and numerous evenings filled with slices of decadent chocolate cake and extravagant presents.
Birthdays tend to be tricky for me. To say I am less than enthusiastic about my own birthday is an understatement. As the day draws near, a feeling of anxiousness makes its way to me. It wasn’t always like this though. As a teen, I would stay up till midnight waiting excitedly for the phone to ring when my friends would call to wish me a ‘Happy Birthday’. But a lot has changed in recent years and I almost dread my birthday and want it to pass as quietly as possible now.
The lack of enthusiasm often stems from the fact that birthdays are such a milestone in one’s life. There are expectations that one may have achieved something by the time one turned 30 or 40. Am I where I want to be in my career or life?
Birthdays become a day of introspection for me. They create an environment of self-criticism and generate feelings of inadequacy. Have I really done everything I could have? Or has another year passed where I have failed miserably? Do I have any accomplishments to show for myself?
More often than not, I am not where I want to be in life which leads me to think is there really a cause for celebration? Do I really deserve to be celebrated?
Each birthday also becomes a day to gauge my emotions at a particular time. Am I really happy and content? Have I been a disappointment to people or have I nurtured relationships in the best way possible?
The days leading up to my special day start to cause uneasiness and apprehension. When someone asks ‘oh what did you get on your birthday from your spouse. Did he get you flowers?’. Not many people understand that I am not one for presents on my birthday and don’t want any kind of celebration, and my family understands that. It is a regular day at home and I usually take a day off cooking and order a nice meal at home. I will also put on a movie or curl up with a good book – as I would any other day. But the expectation from others of how a birthday should pan out is a precursor for disappointment.
Social media breeds comparison too. It starts with how many people posted on Facebook for your birthday and has moved to who has posted a collage of pictures for your special day. I have actively taken off the date for my birthday from Facebook so that the ‘friends’ don’t get a reminder once a year. Can you tell how much I avoid this day now?
Let’s not forget the very awkward moment when you are sitting down at a restaurant, and you see the staff walking towards you with a cake. What does one do when that happens? I smile awkwardly while everyone sings and silently hope it finishes quickly!
I am grateful that my friends want to shower me with love and presents. But I am even more appreciative when they know I like to keep the day quiet.