With the exception of when I was very young, I’ve never really made a big deal out of my birthday. And I’ve never understood people who do. I’ve never understood the attitude of “this is my Special Day.” Sometimes you can actually hear the capital letters in their voices.
Part of it may be the time of year when I was born. Once you get too old for big parties, your birthday becomes about your family and your close friends. But when your birthday is in early September, something funny happens — people are still getting into the school year, still adjusting to the post-summer social upheaval, and an early September birthday tends to get overlooked. Those of you born in the summer know that it sort of sucked because there was no big to-do at school for you. Believe it or not, the same was true for those of us who had birthdays right after school started (back in the days when school always started after Labor Day). And with divorced parents, birthdays seemed like one more opportunity for one-upping each other or yelling at each other and it just wasn’t worth it.
So, no one was making a big deal out of my birthday, so I never did, either. And that was fine. It became even more fine on September 11, 2001, which was my birthday, sure, but some other stuff happened that day, too. And I remember thinking at some point on that day, “Well, I’m done with birthdays, then.”
And, again, this was fine. Because I never really cared one way or the other. Birthdays, I felt, were really times of celebration for children. Unlike most of my peers, I never bothered to take a vacation day on my birthday and I didn’t insist that the world acknowledge it in any way. In the wake of 9/11, I just stopped thinking about my birthday much at all. And this made me feel odd, often, because there’s all of this social pressure to celebrate our birthdays and the people around us so frequently want to turn it into something big and special and amazing, and then I feel guilty when I’m like, “Nah, that’s okay, I’m fine the way I am.”
But something weird has happened in the past few years. Maybe it’s a sign of getting older and confronting my own mortality. Maybe it’s a sign of being generally happy with my life. I don’t know. But for some reason, I’ve begun treating my birthday as something special. I don’t want anyone else doing that, mind you. I don’t think anyone else should. But nowadays, on my birthday, I sort of…chill. It’s not that I don’t do anything at all. It’s that I only do the things I like doing. If I’m in the middle of a book that’s a chore, I put it down and re-read something I know I’ll love. I eat the foods I love, no matter how bad they are for me. I go to the movies alone in the middle of the day, when I have the theater to myself.
One thing I don’t do: Turn on the TV or read the news. Not since 9/11. It’s just too depressing to watch the anniversary stuff every year.
And you know what? I write! I really do. I work like any other day, but I only work on the project I feel most passionate about in the moment. (I wish I could tell you about today’s…but I can’t. Not yet. But I think you’ll like it!)
So, yeah, that’s my little rumination on birthdays. You won’t see much of me today because I’m going to be relaxing and enjoying the analog world. I know that to some people it’s odd or even off-putting not to make a big to-do about a birthday, but truly: I am so happy with my quiet, personal celebration. You have no idea.
See ya tomorrow!