It is fascinating to see how differently children and adults react to their birthdays. For children a birthday is ‘me’ time. They will tell everyone the see, stranger or not, that it is their birthday. They will boast their age. Their unapologetic egotism and narcissism rules the day and you better bring presents, cause you know, it’s their birthday. Parties are planned and trips scheduled and the whole affair is being looked forward to, sometimes weeks in advance. The most prominent facial expression kids have when the topic of their birthday comes up is a big, fat grin.
How completely opposite is the general reaction to birthdays when it comes to adults, especially once they leave their twenties behind. (Of course there are exceptions on both sides of the timeline.) The day is dreaded, mourned, put out of thought, or forgotten. Having a birthday turns into a solemn affair that calls for merciless introspection. I am this age now and I still haven’t accomplished this, that, and the other thing I had on my life list. As if you could put the value of your life into neat little boxes that get a checkmark on this day, or more likely, not. People mourn missed opportunities, the tedium of everyday life and being one year closer to either inevitable death or debilitating old age. If they celebrate, it is with a bittersweet smile.
I think it would be much healthier if we as adults would celebrate birthdays a bit more like children do. It is a celebration of life. On this day, you joined the world and first interacted with the people in it. Since this point in time the matter that is you mattered. Somehow, out of all the molecules floating in the eternity of the universe, you, and nobody else but you, came into being, nurtured by parents and included in a greater society. You were a complete miracle and you still are. Your body has grown and changed, your mind has learned and expanded. You are one of the most complicated things you could ever come across.
And you are still here! You’ve made it through another year. You will not die at last year’s age, because you have achieved this year’s one. You had good days and bad days, yes, but all of them were yours. You’re doing the whole living, breathing, and being thing everyday. And then you add all that experiencing, loving, learning, feeling, and developing on top of that. I think that is a great reason to celebrate. So, yes, let’s be as joyful as kids on our birthdays. They are a time to celebrate our very existence. You can still get all melancholy and reflective on New Year’s eve.