Finding Importance in Birthdays

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Photo by Andreas Weiland on Unsplash

This year’s birthday for me has been agonizing, mostly in a “oh god, what do I even do?” kind of way. I’m always that person who forgets that their birthday is coming up. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very excited about it, but it’ll usually be just two weeks before my birthday before I think “oh shoot, my birthday is coming up.” It’s never a calculated effort, but always astonishment at how quickly it comes (go ahead and make your sex jokes).

This year is a little different, though. This year is the first one without my mom, which I think I’m prepared to deal with. I say “think” because you can’t actually know until it happens. She always wanted to do something to make my birthday feel special. She started hospice last year the week before my birthday, and with the chaos of her going in and out the emergency room due to the breast cancer causing intense pain in her gall bladder, my birthday sunk into the background of everyone’s minds. Though that summer was all about making sure she was okay, she made it a point to acknowledge that we hadn’t really talked about what to do for my birthday. We eventually decided to celebrate by having a nice breakfast out with my brother, sister-in-law, and aunt. It was something we kind of just threw together, but something we knew everyone would enjoy. I don’t even want to dive into the rabbit hole of thoughts about how she knew that it would be her last birthday with me, but I know that had to have contributed to why she made sure we celebrated it.

This year, I had to actually push myself to make it important. 

It’s not that I’ve never planned my own birthday event by myself, but this year has felt noticeably different when it came to thinking about it. Aside from the passing of my mom making this birthday one of those “firsts” that you inevitably have to experience after loved ones die, there have been other incidences around this year that have contributed to this birthday feeling like it’s not worth celebrating. I don’t want to go too much into detail about that specifically, but those events have made it feel like I’m just not worth the time or energy. I understand people have their priorities, and I wouldn’t want to make someone feel like they have to move me to the top if that’s just not possible, but it would just be nice to feel important.

I lost my mom, and thus, a person in my life who did her damn best to make special days of mine the most special. I realize I can’t always depend on others to be responsible for that, but it was nice to know there was at least one person who would go through all of the motions to make sure we celebrated it the way I wanted to. Maybe this is why I still value birthdays, so much, no matter whose it is. I think this is why I knew, even if I didn’t feel that I knew at first, that I should still celebrate it on my own terms.

I’m hoping what I decided to do distracts me from all of the depressing background noise around my 26th birthday. Even my therapist strongly suggested that I plan something, and made sure I left her office last week committing to making those plans over the weekend. I don’t know that I needed her to say that in order for me to actually plan something, but I do think it allowed me to give it the importance it needed by just sitting down and figuring it out (and even messaging a friend to bounce around some ideas). Once I got past the agony of not knowing what to do, I was finally excited about what was to come, and I’m glad I finally got to that point. Board games, food, and alcoholic beverages with friends sounds like the kind of cozy, but thrilling vibes I’ll need for this birthday. Thank goodness for all of the forces in my life that inspired these plans.

I want this birthday to feel important, because birthdays are important. You lived for another year! You were healthy enough to get another year experiencing life, and that’s a damn good gift. Not everyone gets to experience as many birthdays as they’d like. Some know when it will be their last, and some pass, not knowing that their last one was the grand finale. My mom spent her final birthday feeling depressed about not being able to walk anymore, and wishing her life would just end. I didn’t blame her, but it wasn’t the “happy birthday” that we all wished upon her. None of us knew that all of her happy birthdays had been spent, but that didn’t mean we’d just let it come and go without trying to make it brighter. I didn’t know how much that would pull me into feeling that my own birthday could feel just as meaningless, but I’m actively subverting this by making all of them count.

Make your birthdays happy while you can. Give them the life they deserve. No matter how many you have left, they’re always important enough to celebrate.

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