Why I don’t ‘celebrate’ my birthday

My birthday falls on New Year’s Day. I always imagine Mum and Dad at some elaborate fancy dress party on New Year’s Eve, having to rush off into the black of the night to get to a hospital just in time for me to pop my smiling, blinking head into the world.

I’m sure the reality wasn’t so romantic.

My birthday falls in what for most people is their summer holiday, so ever since I can remember, our family has always been away.

Even as a young girl I remember running away from the beach or the pool, back to the privacy of our rented cottage or hotel room or even our own beach house, locking myself away and crying. For a young girl with nothing to worry about except what flavour ice cream to have, I can only suggest this was some kind of birthday blues.

But as a grown woman, the reason for not wanting to celebrate my birthday is a much more complex one; one that barely anyone takes the time to understand. So, let me lay it all on the line for you (Mum and Dad – I hope you are reading this one).

The shock of it

If the conversation ever ends up centred around my birthday, it is inevitable that I let slip, with thinly veiled disdain, how much I detest the annual celebration. People are shocked, they are outraged, they can’t fathom the concept of someone not rejoicing over such an occasion. ‘My birthday is my favourite day of the year!’ ‘Nooooo! You should love your birthday, you need to celebrate!’

My dread of the day is not some superficial attempt to draw attention to myself. It is a genuine feeling of dread I get in my gut on that day, and I can feel the build-up of negative emotions for days building up to New Year’s Day.

Why tho

When I lay it out for you – I think you’ll agree it’s rather simple. You see, all I ever wanted was to get married and have kids. Now I am older, marriage is less of a priority, and in some regards, even the hope of meeting a decent, respectful man who can commit to me for the rest of my life is a dream that I consider with just the right balance of realism and optimism.

What I want most is a baby. And every year when my age crawls just a tiny bit higher, it is a reminder that not only am I still baby-less, but I’m nowhere nearer to achieving my dream, with no sperm donor in sight… the steady sound of that biological clock in the back of my head just keeps adding to my anxiety.

I can’t explain why my age affects me so much. I guess the last paragraph plays a huge role in it. I look good for my age; I often have people guess I’m in my early or mid-twenties; so it’s not a vanity thing… But I believe I get so worked up because I had such a timeline set out growing up… and it’s all gone to shit; the one thing that mattered most to me in my grand plan has managed to not show up for this years’ party; again… and not only that but I’m still single, a partner with whom this dream might become a reality is not even on the cards.

That hurts a little. And all these thoughts are interwoven into one massive vomit pit of depressing fuckery; and it hits me mostly on my birthday (or my ‘anniversary’ as my sister so graciously rechristened it after we learned that’s what Mariah Carey calls hers).

Be grateful, be happy

Dear lord if one more person says this to me in regards to my birthday, I cannot be held responsible for what I might do to them.

I believe my family was practicing gratitude long before it became the fashion to do so. I recognise my success in every way. I am blessed to have such a supportive family who has helped me get to where I am; a successful, independent woman with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree, a roof over my head and money to eat and pay my bills. I am healthy, I am loved and supported, and I never really want for anything.

So, if I’m so grateful for everything I have, every day, surely you can give me this one day to feel sad and to yearn for something? Surely I can feel sorry for myself and cry and stamp my feet for one day of the year (alright, and the few days leading up to it). I don’t spend the entire 12 months focusing on what I don’t have, but for some reason it all comes into focus, under an age stamped microscope, on this one day of the year.

Still don’t get it?

It’s kind of like having a bucket list for your life;

  1. climb mount Everest
  2. buy a Ferrari
  3. start your own business
  4. meet madonna
  5. get on to The Block
  6. own your own home

You have a great list but your most deepest desire is to own your own home, so you saved the best for last (it was honestly completely out of your control but you make yourself BELIEVE that you saved the best ’til last)… Even though you managed to tick everything off that list, even the most outrageous things you never thought were possible, even though you smashed those dreams, and had a great time doing it, thanking your lucky stars for your situation the whole time… surely you’re gonna be a bit bummed that you haven’t ticked that one last thing off yet? The thing that meant most to you? Surely after all the rest is said and done and cleanly crossed off, your main focus intensifies on that one last thing remaining on your life-essentials list? No? Maybe that’s just the OCD list maker in me.

Lemme give you an example

Last year (NYE of 2016) I got dumped on boxing day. I was only seeing this guy for about 5 months, but I was pretty invested. He was older, and he was talking to me about children and future plans, and when I got his text message, it was somewhat out of the blue.

So, a few days later, I found myself on New Years’ Eve (my anniversary eve remember), back to square one.

I can’t say if it was the fact I was dumped a few days before, or if it was my old friend ‘FUCK MY ANNIVERSARY I REFUSE TO ALLOW MY BODY CLOCK TO TICK OVER ONE MORE YEAR’, but I literally lost my mind that night. Our annual little bonfire party at our beach house turned into my playground. I was like Harley Quinn on coke, gone rampant. At one point I was smashing shit with an empty Galliano bottle and at midnight, my sister had to stop me from setting a party popper off that was aimed inside my open mouth. I threw a chair into the fire pit, I vividly remember walking around kicking inanimate objects, and apparently the grazes on my leg were due to tumbling down a stock pile of gravel in the corner of the yard that I had climbed up in order to shout at everyone that “I’ll do what I want!” The night culminated with me running across the road to the beach outrageously singing songs from the musical Wicked at the top of my lungs at 3 in the morning and going skinny dipping before passing out on the sand.

To say I copped a lot of shit the next day was an understatement. I was told I was behaving like an absolute dickhead, and I should act more my age. The cherry on top was when I quietly asked my family a favour. Despite the fact that we had cooked the annual lamb spit and had our backyard filled fence to fence with fold out chairs overspilling with friends and family from near and far, I asked if we could just bring the cake out and serve it, to allow me to skip the “happy birthday” song, just this once, and stuff my face with the best part about this awful day. I was way too fragile to handle it and I just knew I would lose it if I had 50 people looking at me, singing and smiling while I tried to hold it together on a day which is traditionally (if somewhat irrationally), my worst day of the year.

Well. You’d think I’d asked the family to help me bomb the Vatican. The commotion! The outrage! The fight that went down that evening! I could accept them not agreeing with my overly emphatic repulsion at this yearly ‘celebration’, but I couldn’t accept them not even TRYING to understand where I was coming from. Or even bothering to ask me why I felt this way.

But this year…

And so, this NYE, I decided to sit it out. If I couldn’t be myself and be accepted for it without judgement or understanding, I wasn’t going to partake – angry Harley Quinn character or not (to be honest I was absolutely horrified she would make an appearance again; I think I scared myself last year- but still, why the judgement!?).

I stayed home and used a smudge stick to sage my apartment, I set out goals for my business for this year and wrote a positive letter to myself that I will read in three months’ time. I went for a walk and got an ice cream and let myself feel the emotions I was feeling, instead of putting on a brave face to hide them (or fuck them up with a Galliano bottle). Just before midnight my friend invited me over to her apartment to watch the fireworks, and I felt like I had accomplished all I wanted to for the night, so I went. And it was a lovely way to bring in the new year.

The next day, instead of waking up away, at the beach house, I woke up in my own time in my own beautiful apartment that I love so much, sans hangover (which may or may not add to the depressing vibes of my annual anniversary), and went for a jog. I felt fresh, and happy and the sun was shining and I never remember starting my birthday with such a positive energy.

I took myself out for breakfast and when I was ready, I headed down to the beach to see an old classic car show. I finally met up with my family who may or may not have got the hint about the birthday vibes after I was absent from last night’s celebrations (and probably a firm word or 2 from my sister who was the only one who ‘got it’ from day one)… it was perfectly low key, not a mention of a birthday in sight, not even when we went out for dinner, not even when we went home for dessert; which happened to be a cake decorated with stars.

It was exactly how I wanted my anniversary to be – surrounded by friends and family who I feel so blessed to have, but without copious amounts of people, without any numbers or the excessive celebrations.

Because to me it is not a celebration. And maybe you still don’t understand that… but please RESPECT that.

Yes, I am blessed, I am healthy, and I have so many incredible things in my life to be thankful for; but I don’t need a birthday to remind me of that… I give thanks for those things every day.

So now that you know why I don’t like my birthday, and how it really has nothing to do with you in any shape or form how or if I celebrate it, maybe we can try to understand people a little more before we jump to conclusions a little too quickly? Everyone has a story to tell, we all have baggage. Try not to be a judgemental little asshole – this rule applies to everyone you meet, in every situation in life.

And on a final side note, I feel like 2018 is going to be my best year ever… I actually really genuinely enjoyed my NYE and anniversary this year… who knows… maybe even one year I’ll truly want to ‘celebrate’ it.

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