There’s always something about birthdays that makes me introspective, that makes me pause and think about what another year of life means and what I’ve done and have yet to do. It can be uplifting, or it can be depressing. I’ve hovered somewhere in the middle for the most part, and I’m not sure how I can rise to that uplifting feeling. So let’s at least attempt it.
I turned 24 today. Not particularly exciting, but not exactly a big milestone of a birthday. At least not to me. Maybe I’m too young to realize it or too close to see the big picture. It makes me wonder, though, if this happens a lot to other people, at other stages of their (our) lives? And what does it mean to most people anyway, to celebrate another year on this earth? Do they just go about their daily business as usual, or they pull out all the stops and control every part of their lives so that every moment is one of pleasure and leisure? Which makes me wonder: is that right? Do I have a right to refuse to do any kind of work and to expect to be taken care of the entire day? Should I not treat this day as a once in a lifetime opportunity to kick back and not care for anything that’s not close to me? This is how I’ve hovered between the uplifting and the depressing; I suppose it’s a sort of balance that I’ve been able to maintain, but is it healthy? After all, I believe that balance is relative and personal: it depends on the person.
And for me, for the past several years, I have held the expectation that others ought to at least greet me or treat me with (a bit more) kindness on my birthday. I still check to see who has greeted me on Facebook and who hasn’t, and yes, I temporarily judge them for it. It’s that kind of thing that would make me consider removing them as a Facebook friend. Is that horrible of me? Probably. I don’t hold the set of rules that dictate social media etiquette for relationships. I guess I just want the attention, just for the day.
I also want little to no responsibilities for the day. No work, no errands, no chores. Is that selfish and privileged of me? Yes. I can’t help but feel that way, but I know that if something needs to be done, then I’ll do the work. I just feel less inclined to do any of the sort on my birthday.
But your birthday is, in fact, just one other day out of 365. Yes, it marks the first day of the next year of your life that has been granted to you. But instead of expecting a big celebration and for people to fall at your feet in adoration, maybe you should practice gratitude instead. Maybe I should take time out of my day to thank the people in my life for loving and supporting me, and for the experiences I’ve had so far that have shaped me. Maybe I should thank God or the universe or that great and powerful thing that put me here on this earth for giving me more opportunities to become a better person.
I read an article about a teacher at my high school who’s started a business at the age of 75. I never took any of her classes, but after reading about her, I came to admire her sense of gratitude and zest for life. She said, “When you’ve lived this long, you learn to be proud of who you are, and instead of just aging on a birthday, you achieve another year.” Isn’t that great? Maybe I’m not in the right mindset right now to completely understand or agree with that statement, but I know that there is truth in it. Like I said, I’m so close to what I’m feeling that I need time to step back and take it all in.
So instead of hoping for clarity in the future, I’ll focus on trying to get perspective in the present. So what does this birthday mean to me? It means that I have achieved another year of life; I’ve completed a year that was full of gifts and surprises and lessons. I learned a lot about myself and the people around me. And it also means that there is more to come. (I am an optimist by nature. It just takes a while whenever I’m feeling down.) There is a world – no – there are worlds of opportunities out there for me, just as there is limitless potential within. I’ve surprised myself this past year: I toughened up when talking to difficult clients, I was patient with others despite my growing frustration with whatever situation we were in, and I discovered that I can be more thoughtful and kind – and I’ve re-learned that kindness makes you a better person.
So let’s focus on the achievements of the past year, and work towards achieving more for the year ahead.