The day has come and gone. It has had a habit of doing this since 1985, when it all began. My birthday.
The whole act of a birthday is a little silly and slightly narcissistic. Let’s get all my friends together to bring me presents, sing to me, eat a cake with my name on it, and drink to my honor. I haven’t accomplished anything other than making it another year but yet everyone gets ready to celebrate the accident that is my existence (because it was an accident).
When I was a child, I would get so excited for my birthday I could barely sleep the week prior. I would open oodles of presents, eat my body weight in cake, and host massive sleepover parties with my girlfriends.
Growing up, my birthday parties were legendary; my friends and I dressed up and held fashion shows in the halls of my home, I hosted destination parties at the ice skating rink or bowling alley, we went to movies that we were too young to watch, and played marathon games of MASH.
Aside from the parties and the strangeness of celebrating me only one day of the year (shouldn’t every day be a Gingermermaid day?), I also recall the anxiety and anticipation of turning another year older.
When I turned from 9 to 10, I remember my mind being blown that I was in double digits. When I became a teenager, I thought that I was the most sophisticated person to grace the halls of my middle school/high school combined educational institution. I turned 16, and as an adolescent, 16 is THE age.
I had visions of this age with sweet 16 candles, big poofy pink dresses, a shiny new convertible, a boyfriend I would spend the rest of my life with, and acceptance into Harvard. In reality, at 16 I failed my learner’s permit test to drive, I was so far from dating anyone that it wasn’t even chartable on any map, I had no idea what I wanted to do for college and rarely thought about it, the car I had was a hand-me-down mini van I called GiGi, and I dressed appropriately for the style of the day (I think this was Boho).
At 18, I believed the world was mine. Adulthood. I could no longer commit a crime and have it forgiven because I was no longer considered a minor. I could buy cigarettes and porn and drink legally in other countries that weren’t America. I registered to vote for what I thought I believed.
After 18 the numbers became slightly scarier. I always envisioned what it would be like to be 20 or 25 and I was convinced that I would’ve figured out the secret of life and be completely happy and settled. The reality is, and I recently learned this, there is no such thing as complete happiness or being completely settled. Everything I imagined turning from 6 to 7, 17 to 18, was only a step towards the next thing in my life because, to live, it’s necessary to become another year older. Whether I learn or grow as a human being depends on the day-to-day and the choices that accompany that. Mind blown.
Now I’m edging on 30 and although I freaked out more in my early 20s about getting older, I take pride in the fact that being 28, I’m really not fussed about my age. I realize that my age doesn’t define me, it’s the person I am in that moment and how happy I am that gives me pause to reflect positively or freak out.
At age 24 I wasn’t as happy and had no clue where I was going in life; getting older and not knowing felt like failure. Now I see a direction to take and I realize it’s not so scary to age a bit when I can peek around the bend and see something worthwhile waiting for me.
Reflecting about my birthdays and the years behind and ahead, I feel content and secure, and each 365 days, a little more so.