When I was little, birthdays used to be a thing.
SNAPSHOT EIGHT YEARS OLD:
- Dunedin, New Zealand.
- Invitations and RSVPs
- Pretty dress, patent shoes
- Hair tied back with a ribbon
- Infamous birthday cake (one year I had a swimming pool, the next a horse's head)
- Orange wedge jelly boats and fairy bread
- 10 other little girls running up and the down the hallway screeching and popping balloons.
- Pass-the-Parcel and Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey
SNAPSHOT FOURTEEN YEARS OLD:
- Dunedin, New Zealand.
- I'm too cool for birthdays and have decided it's something other people celebrate but not me.
- My friends throw me a surprise sleepover birthday party anyway.
SNAPSHOT 29 YEARS OLD:
- Gwangju, South Korea.
- I slipped over in my apartment and have bruises all down my left arm.
- Almost forgot my birthday.
- I buy a candle from Paris Baguette.
- A slice of cake from Starbucks.
- Light the candle, eat the cake, by myself, in my apartment.
- I watch five episodes of The Office (US) on my laptop (which sounds like a lawnmover because the fans are broken).
- Then write my favourite Great Gatsby quotes over all my dinner ware.
At some point during my life I lost the point of celebrating my birthday. My question became: Yes, it's my birthday - but why are we celebrating it? All I've done is complete another revolution around the sun, a feat which I'm definitely not alone in.
I am also extremely uncomfortable with days which have social expectation and celebration attached to them or me as the focus. Think Birthdays, Christmas, Graduations, Weddings, Valentines etc... there is an expectation they are supposed to be happy-happy-dance-around-the-maypole type gigs. I spend the entire day holding my breath waiting for the one thing to go wrong and break the illusion, because in my experience 99% of the time it always happens. In many ways it's easier to not participate in the illusion at all than have it fail and disappoint.
Back to birthdays: So I decided to downplay my birthday as much as possible and my rule became I'll only REALLY celebrate when something cool happens. 'Cool' usually meant I won a writing award or something like that. But when that happened I didn't celebrate properly then either because I thought, I'll celebrate next time - when I climb another rung up the ladder.
And now? I haven't written anything of note in a while. So if that was my rule for celebrating then my life has become one unbroken nothingness devoid of celebration.
Maybe I need my birthday celebrations back again just to break up the nothingness.
These days when my birthday rolls around I make a goal - something concrete I can achieve which doesn't rely on anyone else (otherwise the goal is potentially impossible).
In 2012 my goal was to be in a different country by the time I turned 29. GOAL: ACHIEVED. I am in South Korea and although from time to time it can be isolating and has the expected frustrations of living in a non-English speaking country, I genuinely like my life here.
But 2014... I think my goal might simply be to celebrate my birthday again. Properly. As much as that idea makes me feel uncomfortable, it's probably time to bite the bullet and get over myself.