In 1st grade my classroom had a class calendar on the whiteboard. My teacher would adorn it with special occasions for the month: event days, field days, holidays, and birthdays. The calendar had the birthdays of a few of my friends on it and as I looked through the month of May my teacher had also included the first week of June. My birth month!
I was excited until I glanced back to the last week of May. One of the days had Last day of School!!! written on it. I did the math. Twice. If the last week of May was also the last day of school, then this calendar would never include the other 3 weeks of June. I wouldn’t be able to celebrate with my classmates not now nor ever. My birthday would never come.
When you’re a sweet summer child these things happen. An unfortunate reality. I’ve since accepted it, but the realization had genuinely upset my 6-year-old self–that I would never be able to have a celebration with my classmates during the school year, while others did. I would be permanently missing out on something and I knew it. My classmates probably would have liked to take part in celebrating me, but that wasn’t really an option.
Celebrating birthdays was a thing in my house, but it quickly boiled down to an excuse to buy a cake in my early childhood. We had parties, but they stopped well before I finished elementary school. It’s not the same when your mom is inviting her friends that happen to have children your age for your celebration (I promise I was grateful to have a party at all, it was nice to be celebrated). However, with classmates it would have been different. My friends among them, who I hung out with for a third of my day were the people I chose.
What really killed it for me was my mom once telling me that celebrating one’s birthday was also celebrating coming one-year closer to your death in the 4th grade. Probably not the best perspective to give a child, and matter of factually I agreed with the sentiment. Unfortunately, I parroted this remark several times to children and adults alike not understanding its dreaded and pessimistic implications nor its subconscious affects.
Today my birthday really doesn’t hold much value as a milestone. I often genuinely forget it, and when I’m reminded day of, I feel a fond but distant Oh yeah- my birthday. Otherwise, it’s just any other day to pass and be forgotten.
It’s important to celebrate milestones constructively- including birthdays. But I can’t help to feel it’s a little egotistical and arrogant to celebrate your birthday yourself. So, I don’t. Nor do I advertise it. Combined with the way birthdays were treated in my house growing up it left only one alternative: to be celebrated by my people around me. Depending on them for a chance celebration because they happened upon a social media notification. This restriction has given me a genuine appreciation for those that do choose to celebrate me, even in the smallest of gestures. On the occasions when I’ve been asked, “Where’s the party?”–I’ve found its contrast with my own feelings quite amusing. I haven’t had one in years. I think I’ll be okay.
Maybe I feel this way to cope with these childhood experiences that I’ve missed out on. Secretly, I think I want to celebrate me.