It was just my birthday.
I wish I could pinpoint the day that my birthday stopped carrying that “birthday feeling.” You know what I mean. There used to be a certain intangible aura that used to follow me from the moment I woke up. A feeling that I didn’t want the day to end. I was filled with the anticipation of a day of good wishes. A day of smiles. I could expect cake, and hugs. Everyone’s good wishes.
I’m not sure when that disappeared.
I mean, I still get the wishes. The newsfeed on my Facebook page blows up with greetings from both close friends and random followers. Sometimes I get cake. But that moment when my eyes open on my birthday – the moment where I spring out of bed excited for “my” day – that disappeared somewhere along the “turning-into-an-adult” line.
Was I 25?
I’m not sure. It isn’t that I dread my birthday like some people do as they age. It’s more like this tacit understanding that it’s just a day. Nothing major. The same as yesterday and the day before. The same as tomorrow. Maybe my license will need to be renewed. That’s about it.
It would be ideal to pinpoint exactly when that change happened. Not so much to find the clear turning point in my life, but to remember that last exciting birthday. I mean, did I take advantage of it? Did I have more fun than the birthday before? It would be really helpful if we had some kind of a warning when we were doing something for the last time.
Hey! Read that story to your son slowly, because after tonight, he won’t want you to!
Hey, take care to hold her hand, because this is the last time she’ll need your hand crossing the street!
Feel that birthday glow? You won’t feel it next year! So enjoy it.
There is no demarcation for the last time we do things. We certainly chart all the firsts. First tooth. First day of school. First date. Even a graduation, which is technically an ending, is usually couched as a beginning in every valedictory speech and charge to the students.
Come to think about it, only death represents a solid end to something.
Maybe that’s the whole idea. With each ending moment, there is a kind of personal death. A sadness that no one wants to admit to. It could be your kid getting older, your childhood ending, or, in my case, the realization that the world doesn’t revolve around you anymore. That a birthday is just another day on the calendar for the rest of the world.
Sounds disheartening, but I don’t think it’s that mournful. If we spent our lives thinking about all the endings, all the last times, we would be pretty miserable. Instead, they slip away from us, like leaves falling off a tree. One day you look out and the tree is bare and you can’t quite put your finger on when that last leaf fell.
But within that is also rebirth – the tree comes back, after all. That’s the point, I think, of marking these yearly birthdays. As I get older, it is less about a day of parties and cake and more about quiet reflection. Of resolutions and assessments. Of looking at the coming year and deciding where it will lead. Of celebrating myself every day and not just on that one day reserved for me alone.
Not that I would reject the cake and candles. Or the party. But when it’s over, it’s back to work. Back to the daily grind.
I still miss the birthday feeling, but birthdays are much more than a feeling. Love is much deeper than those first infatuations. Life is greater than one day.
Happy birthday me. It was a beautiful day. And so is today.
It will be a beautiful year.
Time to clean up the cake and confetti.