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.
Christmas and New Year
I've often toyed with the idea of deactivating my Facebook account but it took the New Year to roll around for me to actually do it.
I did wonder if the timing was coincidental, but on reflection, I doubt it. I think it was more influential than anything. A catalyst.
There is so much out pouring of mawkish sentiment at this time of year with most of it being amplified ten fold by the social networks that all I want to do is crawl into the rather large cavity under my sink and reappear mid-Jan.
You love your family. Congratulations. So do I. But why do most people only say it once a year? Is it because festive celebrations inevitably result in an annual epic domestic that takes another 12 months and a nip of brandy to recover from? If so, that leaves you with a damn slim window to get mawkish before all hell breaks loose.
But why profess on Facebook? Why not face to face? If it can't even be done through a cloud of alcoholic merriness, there is no hope for us. I don't have a problem if you're spouting well wishes to family and friends you can't physically be around. I do however take issue with this sort of fare:
'Just had the most amaze day with Darren and the fam. Ate way too much, best Christmas eva. Got totally spoilt. So lucky to have you in my life, love you guys loads xx.'
We're just a species that's evolved with the specific purpose of creating barriers to physical human interaction. Or that's evolved only to be comfortable dealing with emotion when you don't have to deal with the real time reaction. Are we DEVELOPING EMOTIONAL POVERTY? FAKEBOOK is it your fault? Fakebook will say no because like guns don't kill people, people kill people, Fakebook will say Fakebook doesn't kill physical human interaction, humans kill physical human interaction.
Yes, it's a dog eat dog world isn't it Fakebook? But here's a point, like guns Fakebook, you enable.
Anyway, long story short: I don't need to know you love your family, your family needs to know you love them.
And as an endnote to this entry I have discovered that there are actually sites out there blatantly feeding into this festive Facebook feeling frenzy. If you yourself can't even produce the mawkish sentiment to stick in your status update box, some freelance copywriting hack has saved you the exertion.
These are taken from FacebookStatus123.com:
"Merry Christmas! From my wall to yours..." (all the Marketing Execs would have used this one)
"The best gifts in life will never be found under a Christmas tree! Those gifts are friends, family, kids and the one you love!!" (Mawkish Sentiment Level - MSL = 9/10. Also, no editing here, it really did come with two exclamation marks).
Strangely enough, I actually quite like this one:
"Ha ha ha Christmas is coming and there’s nothing you can do about it..."
Overall and in sum, at this rate, there is no hope for us. But please, prove me wrong (I really want you to).