Six Squared

Birthday Cake
Cake for one. At Weber Grill.

November has become a difficult month for me. Not only does it mean Thanksgiving and the entire holiday season that follows it, but it also means my birthday “season” has arrived and turning another year older. However, it doesn’t mean I need to look any older. In the last couple years, that usually also means a very quiet, introspective, and solitary season.

Birthdays, much like everything else in America, has turned into an affair that calls to be celebrated for far longer than what the calendar shows – one day. People have “birthday weeks,” “birthday months,” or “birthday seasons” to keep the party going. I don’t get it. Why do people want so much attention for just being themselves? I don’t really want it, but I don’t want to be completely forgotten either. The last few years, the days leading up to and my actual birthday are internally dark. Who will remember? Will anyone (parents and best friend excluded)?

I’ve had a few particularly emotional birthday-days that have brought intense feelings of loneliness and disconnect in my time because I felt people weren’t there in any real capacity. I’ve never been one to plan my own party. Nor do I want to be the center of attention. If friends want to coordinate a party, I’ll probably do it. As years go by, though, people have other life commitments like spouses, kids, jobs, etc. I get it. I assume they’re all too busy for me, so I make due on my own. In my head, I’ve figured this must be part of being single when most of your community isn’t.  My last two actual birthdays I’ve had dinner alone. While not altogether the worst, perhaps it wasn’t the best either.

Why are my birthdays such internally difficult affairs? Why do I feel such loss at the thought of people forgetting about it and simultaneously cringe when I get a “Happy birthday!” greeting or Facebook wall post? A birthday greeting isn’t something that’s earned, but a simple acknowledgment of my existence and nothing else. Why not want any focus on me for me?

Maybe that’s (a small) part of the problem.  Throughout the year, I constantly feel like I’m having to prove my worth wherever I go and with whatever I do.  Then when my birthday comes, it requires nothing of me, and it partially freaks me out. I’m just supposed to “be, ” and that’s enough for a day. Maybe that’s supposed to be enough every day.

So goes another year and another birthday, partially unscathed. I hope with this new year brings more wisdom and being more OK with getting older and celebrating life.

*This post is not intended to invoke any belated happy birthdays or anything similar. 

  • Paul Abella

    I would say that any birthday wish for someone older than 12 and away from family or Facebook is earned to some degree. It’s an acknowledgement that you’re a swell friend and worth the time (no matter how small) out of a busy day to stop what you’re doing and celebrate the fact that certain people are on the planet, breathing and above ground. So there.

  • Liz IrishCream Mitchell

    I felt the same way the last few years, this past October being the exception. My birthday was still a quiet, not overly celebrated affair. My perspective on it was different. Spending a week in the hospital after a severe bout of depression will do that, I guess (feel free to read between the lines on that one cuz you are probably right.) You are a good friend. We may not get to hang out much, but you are treasured.

  • masthewitt

    I have a friend who taught me about celebrating birthdays. She is quite a bit older than I am and so one might think she would have less motivation to be reminded of yet another birthday, yet she loves to celebrate her own and others’ birthdays. For her it is a celebration of life. For me it has become a celebration of the life God has given.