First of all, I’d like to take this moment to wish my good friend Jer a very happy birthday today, as well as thank him for becoming the inspiration for this post. So happy thirtieth, Jer, you are not old, I swear (you’re just older than me, but so are the Olsen twins, and they’ll never seem old).
So earlier today, I wished my friend happy birthday, and he replied he wished he’d taken the day off from work. That immediately resonated with me as I recalled having one of the “worst birthdays ever” the year before last.
That year, I was turning 24. I was in a phase of working a lot and I figured oh what the hell, I’ll go to work (two jobs), and sure, after that I’ll take my sister to a meeting with one of my old death and dying professors. What else are birthdays for?
But by the time I got home from that day’s mess of jobs, errands, and tasks, my boyfriend had fallen asleep and I was left to drink the luxury beer he’d bought me alone, while watching something really unmemorable on TV (we didn’t even have cable, so that’s how I know it was bad).
The gifts he’d bought me were sweet, but the only thing I’d actually wanted was to spend the day with the person I loved. Instead I’d spent it every other possible way (and Kels, I love you, but yeah… no more meetings on my birthday). And sure, I could try to make it up that weekend by going out, but try as I might have to deny it, there is just something special in the air on your birthday. You just can’t get that shit back– at least, not for the next three hundred and sixty four days.
This could be a really superfluous post, you know, about whether or not to work on your birthday. Sounds kind of like I’m reaching, right? Most people would shrug it off as just an excuse to hear myself think on paper, or extrapolate on an idea that doesn’t beg of it.
But while a pessimistic someone might say, “Everybody has a birthday, so what? Now get back to work!” To me, that’s kind of the point. Not everyone has a wedding anniversary, or a love for Valentine’s day or a child for mother and father’s day. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, and I don’t get to celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanza or take all those Jewish observance days off (I knew I should have converted).
But everyone has their own birthday; it’s one of the only things that we all have in common. So to me, that’s what makes it so cool. It’s the great equalizer of man: we were all born, and it happened on a day. That day is our birthday.
It’s not just some garbage a card company created (and yes, I do think those Hallmark days are bunk). It’s actually a legitimate real-life, and yet otherworldly event. It’s the anniversary of day in which you came into physical existence. If that doesn’t call for a celebration, I don’t know what does.
So I don’t think it’s as nonessential a topic of consideration as it may sound. I think that finally, after years of making the mistake of working on my birthday, or scheduling any other number of random assorted tasks that could easily wait until another day, I have finally learned the lesson: don’t work on my birthday! (And therefore, because I love you: Don’t work on your birthday!)
I don’t care if it sounds childish; I don’t have time for name calling. This is about living your life and loving it. This is about the fact that this is the only birthday you’ve got for sure, right here, right now. So love yourself enough to take a break from your job (unless, of course, you love your job so much that you actually prefer to work on your birthday– which, I believe, is the best option of all).
Use your birthday as an excuse to do whatever it is you want to do. The best gift you can give yourself is getting to know yourself a little bit better. Why not spend the entire day asking, “What is it I want to do?” Have you ever actually done that before? Now’s the time. A year older, a year wiser. But no man was wise without first knowing himself. I often doubt whether there is any wisdom beyond that.
Now, this may sound like I’m a huge birthday freak who looks for any excuse to break out the trick candles and party hats. But that’s actually not so (and party hats just aren’t flattering on me, no clue why). As much as I’m into astrology, and therefore knowing birthdays, I’ve never been hugely motivated to actually celebrate them.
I love to think of people and surprise them by remembering their birthdays, but the cake and balloons and going out and getting sloshed just seem kind of beside the point once you reach a certain age (like, the age in which you can legally get sloshed). Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not my style. Besides, I never make a big deal of my own birthday… At least not outwardly.
But the one thing I have always loved about my birthday is simply people remembering me and saying “happy birthday”. It’s just about the connection, to other people, and the universe as well. Your birthday is the day when you can kind of revisit the world as it was (planetarily) to the day you were born. It always warms my heart disproportionately when someone says happy birthday (although, it must be on my actual birthday, to get that reaction). It’s like you just declared your undying love for me or something… I don’t know, I’m weird. But it really means a lot, it’s just so nice!
A close second to my favorite thing about birthdays is the really thoughtful, totally random and small gifts people give you. The kind that don’t have any great external value, but that mean so much just because of the thought put into them and the person who gave them. Those are the kind of gifts that make me re-think the value of going over the top materialistically.
Like this year, one of my friends brought me a gluten-free, vegan brownie and a kombucha tea, plus she wrote me a really sweet card. Nothing crazy, but I still remember it and think she’s the best, just because it was so thoughtful. Then I had an awesome birthday just kayaking with her out on the lake. The weather was insanely gorgeous, so after that I had a beautiful afternoon in the park with Leo and my sister came home from college and surprised me. Then Leo and I got sushi (emphasis on seaweed salad, which to me is like blood to a vampire). It was so simple, but it was a really great day.
My whole point is this: celebrate your birthday. Don’t let it pass you by. I like to think every day is special, but your birth-day is just a little more special than the rest. Use it as a reason to sleep in, spend the day with your kids, your papillon, or whatever else is truly the most important thing to you in the world. Presents and big nights out and all the other trappings are fine, but real-life things, like nature, love, and relationships are the parts you’re going to remember a year or ten, from now.
It’s one day. You can afford it. In fact, you can’t afford not to. It’s not being a diva to take the day off. It’s simply called not being a work-a-holic– which, contrary to popular belief, is not commendable. It’s unhealthy, adds negativity to the world (and obviously you), and pragmatically-speaking, it’s counter-productive to the work you do, anyway. So stop acting like the world will stop if you take the day for a “mental health/birth day” and have chocolate cake and soda for breakfast at noon. It’s the only responsible thing to do.
I promise, if you take the time out to celebrate your life and start your personal new year off right, your work will still be there tomorrow. This is the one day of the year that is yours to do with as you please. If you’re not willing to pause and smell the coffee along the way in life, I don’t know what you’re living for.
Not to mention, I don’t take it for granted that I will certainly have a birthday next year. I don’t mean that in a morbid way; the fragility and uncertainty of life is what makes it so sweet. I’m totally okay with it. I may not be here tomorrow, next year, or five years from now.
That’s the reason we must appreciate each day as it comes. And ironically enough, once you start living your life for today, rather than tomorrow or five years from now, death won’t look so scary anymore (seriously, strange but true). You’re enjoying yourself here and now, and you’ll get done what you get done. The rest just wasn’t that important.
Maybe you find it hard to live every day like it’s your last, as the saying goes, but at least on your birthday, it’s a reminder that you can, and should be doing just that. So call in sick to work or take a vacation day to celebrate your life and the people you love. Maybe start a new healthy habit that will keep giving as the year progresses, or take that trip you’ve always wanted. Even if you just catch up on sleep, it’s not a waste if that’s what you most want to be doing.
So, it’s your birthday. You can work (and cry) if you want to (and I take full advantage of that right most years– emotional surge, not sure the cause but it’s like clockwork) but I strongly believe there’s value to starting your own personal new year off on just the right note, whatever that means for you.
So if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go sip Bacardi like it’s your birthday… (I’m so original)