As a child birthdays are something for celebration. What kid doesn’t enjoy cake and ice cream while surrounded by friends and presents? Each year they look forward to ‘being older’ with the goal of being grown ups. As the teen years approach this goal is within sight and finally being accepted in society as an adult comes to pass.
In our late teens and early twenties we explore the world with wonder, excitement, and maybe a little anxiety as we try to navigate what is expected as an adult. Not the rules of society of course as we are taught these in our early upbringing but the rules of social acceptance and what is expected of us. Soon we will be expected to make it in the world on our own. Getting jobs, going to college, and taking on adult responsibilities are a reality we had not thought of.
As we adjust to our adult lives and responsibilities birthdays still hold some excitement but with each passing year this excitement tends to fade into a new reality. We are getting older. We are no longer children. We can’t go back to the simplicity and ease of being a child. Even if our childhood had been a strenuous one, we often long for this rather than the strains of adulthood making the passing of each birthday a real reminder of our mortality.
For many the big 3-0 can be a shock and cause not only anxiety but slight depression as well. Where we are in life and what we expected when we were children are often brought to the forefront. Life may not have been progressing as we had hoped when we were younger. With this being said, so much life is before us that we are still encouraged to take each new day with hope and dreams.
I find that as each year passes we are faced with our successes and failures measuring them against each other to determine if we are living in a successful manner. This simply is not the way to determine our success in life. With each passing day, year, and birthday we build experience and maturity that wasn’t there the past year. Each birthday is in fact a milestone of success. We grow as individuals with a purpose. Each may have their own purpose but there is no doubt in my mind it exists for all. You will often find today that adults who are middle aged or even older will agree that life changed and started only recently. With the experience aquired and maturity that accompanies it, our life experiences are more meaningful and the motivation of money and power from youth no longer exist. The desire for meaningful experiences and relationships are what drives us.
I recently celebrated a birthday. This was not a milestone birthday in common standards but I found that stress, disappointment in where I am in life brought on some depression. I was unaware of how this was affecting me but with each day bringing me closer to my day of celebration, I grew worse. The day of my birth anniversary I was absolutely miserable. I fought against this misery determined to enjoy my birthday. I had very little success. When I woke up the following day, I had survived another year and was beginning a new year. For some reason when I opened my eyes the day after my birthday I was rejuvenated. This got me thinking.
When I realized how the birthday had affected me I couldn’t help but wonder why. I explored the emotions of the previous day and was aware of the emotions that had built up until that day. I could only conclude that the social need to compare ourselves to others had set my mood and that it was time to accept we are all on our own paths of discovery. I have lived a difficult life. I’ve had many ups and downs. My youth was spent struggling. Compared to my younger years I am in a much better place now. I am happily married and exploring my options for the future. I have vowed that each and every birthday from this to the last will be a celebration of my accomplishments. Not my financial accomplishments but as a loving and decent human being. I will strive to accept myself as a unique individual and celebrate each unique aspect of myself. Birthdays indeed are a cause for celebration.