Every time I openly admit that I’m not a huge fan of birthdays, I can’t help but noticing the astonished expression that slowly appears on people’s faces.
A few days ago, finally, someone had the courage to tell me why: ‘I see you as someone who appreciates being the center of attention. On your birthday everything is finally and legitimately about you. A person like you should love such a thing.’
Let it be clear: I am not a self-center megalomaniac with a helpless delusion for grandeur. Yet, I didn’t deny it: I do enjoy grabbing the attention of the people around me as a part of my intensely communicative personality. As a storyteller, I’ve developed a need for a permanent ‘audience’ that is focused and attentive on me when I require their attention.
So how come I don’t like birthdays?
It’s not always been this way. I actually started out as a birthday fanatic: when I was younger, I counted the months, weeks, hours left to the big day. I waited eagerly for that day to come and satisfy my need for gratuitous demonstrations of affection and to finally get that present I had been waiting for.
Then a few years ago something changed. My childish materialism gradually faded and I realized that the closer it got, the more I tried to forget it. I just wanted to store it in the back of my brain and keep it there for as long as the damn calendar allowed me to. I even started feeling bothered me when people reminded me. And when the day came I just couldn’t wait for it to be over.
It’s been hard to admit it, ‘cause I didn’t want to believe that I am now one of those bitter people who hate birthdays. I never really understood that kind of cynicism, it never made sense to me.
You know… I happen to be surrounded by beautiful, caring people who don’t want to miss the chance to remind me how much they love me. They come with cakes and presents and cards, they make expensive phone calls from the other side of the world and write me letters or emails and messages.
And I feel so grateful. Because at this stage I feel like I know enough of the world to no longer take anything for granted. And the fact that someone offers me even a small fraction of their time fills me with joy and pride. But it also makes me wonder if I deserve it.
And as I feel grateful I also worry. For different reasons. I look at my life and I see that the people who celebrate me today are not the same as five years ago. And I try to picture the people of the future and I can’t see clearly and I don’t know what to expect.
Everything is changed. And I’ve grown up, I’ve become an adult. And I don’t see the point of celebrating the thing that made me this way: an adult with an inexplicable aversion for birthdays and a slight fear of happiness.
And, at the end of the day, all the fuss about birthdays is that they are a temporal reminders of your progression in life. But I think it's not bad if you sometimes decide to go back, instead, and look for that annoying child who counted the minutes to his birthday and ask him to teach you how to be happy again.