I think my main issue with birthdays is that I peaked at eight. My parents filled an entire car with balloons, they surprised me with a ridiculous amount of presents AND I got my first cabbage patch doll (remember the years where parents were waiting in lines days long to get those and starting full on fist fights over them!? This was in that time period). Add onto that cake, ice cream, the fact that we spent my late summer birthday on vacation at the beach, and it’s hard to fulfill that expectation year after year.
So, after a few years of getting really excited for my birthday and having it fall short, I stopped building it up. Even though a very small part of me when I wake up on my birthday still expects the entire world to stop business as usual, people to sing to me constantly throughout the day, fireworks to follow me, flowers to bloom when I walk by, dancing extras, work to be canceled, the sun to shine, birds chirping, cars full of balloons … you get the idea.
In addition to not letting myself down, I don’t want those around me to feel like they have to do something for me if it’s not just something that happens. I’ve gotten too many gifts that were “oh shit, I have to get something for her birthday” gifts and I know it’s a pain to go shopping under pressure thinking you have to find something. And it’s never that exciting to receive something knowing it was bought so a gift would be present (haha, pun intended), not because it was something that struck someone as something you would just love. Presence is so much better than presents.
I hope I never turn into one of those people who dreads their birthday. Because if nothing else, I’m all for having a good reason to share a beer with a friend, to get together with friends and family, to wake up with a smile on your face in the morning, or to have cake and ice cream. And it’s kind of fun to be secretly expecting all the people around you to spontaneously burst into song all day.
As far as where I thought I would be, since Jeremy is clearly tweaking about this a little, no. No, I am not where my eight year old self thought I would be. At all. So far from it. And in a lot of ways, thank God. I’m not where my eight year old self thought I would be, or my eighteen year old self, or my twenty eight year old self. I think at eight I would have expected a Barbie-type existence. At eighteen, I believe my younger brother and I promised each other we would help each other not make it to the staggeringly old age of forty. At twenty eight, I was just dreading 30.
I like to think some wisdom has jumped on board over the years. I have made some friends who make me speechless when trying to express what their love and laughter mean to me – suffice to say that I cannot imagine my life without them. I have some funny stories. Some embarrassing ones that aren’t far enough in the past for me to laugh at. I have some good scars. I have learned a lot from the many people I have been lucky enough to encounter. I have enjoyed much and experienced much and when it comes down to it, I wouldn’t change a thing. And most of it, I wouldn’t have predicted. Nor was I expecting to have one of my best birthdays at 31. And I didn’t even get a Cabbage Patch Doll.