This article was first published on former NRMA site Live 4 on August 21, 2013.
When I was a kid, there was nothing more exciting than birthdays. They were better than Christmas – except you got all the presents and attention for yourself. I would count down the ‘sleeps’ in anticipation.
At 17, I was among the younger in my friendship circle and a few good months behind all the action of turning 18 and all that goes with it – driving, drinking, clubbing, voting and the like. I was so restless to join my ‘legal’ friends that I willed the year to pass quickly before Fear of Missing Out overwhelmed me.
My twenties flew by. The passing of another year spent between family, friends and loves in a haze of dinners, drinks, days out or abroad exploring different cities. Feeling content, a little lost at times, but optimistic.
Now at 33, it’s something else. Birthdays carry the same emotional intensity that I have towards New Year’s Eve. In the lead-up, a nonchalance of sorts around how I will celebrate – not terribly fussed by the details of whom, what and where. But as the day draws closer, it’s a mixture of things. A tinge of melancholy for what has been and for all the things I thought I should have accomplished by this age (insert idealised teenage checklist of where your life will be by X-years time here). Alongside happiness and gratitude for the many things I do have in the form of loved ones, good health, a place I call home and a bank of adventures and experiences that have shaped and marked me in different ways.
And then there’s hope. The fact that you don’t know what lies ahead. A thought neatly articulated by American author Paul Auster in the often quoted “Everything can change at any moment, suddenly and forever”. Something that’s scary and exciting all at once.
So is your birthday the best or worst day of the year? I think it’s completely up to you. Think of it as an annual day-pass to treat yourself. Take the day off work. Sleep in. Get a massage. Go shopping. Hang out with the people you love (and who love you). Try to not spend it alone. Eat cake. Share a tasty meal. Drink expensive alcohol. It’s a day that marks your birth. Do whatever feels right and makes you feel good.
At the end of it, you’ll wake up the next day and be a little older. Not too much else is likely to be different. So why dwell on it? I figure have a happy birthday instead.