When I was young, birthdays weren't a big deal. Me and my family would go out to a simple dinner, talk, and go home. That was it. No gifts, no parties, no fuss.
At that time, I hated it. I hated not having gifts. I hated not having a party with my friends. I hated not feeling special on what was supposed to be my special day.
I promised myself back then that I would change that, and I did. During my college years, I started holding parties at my house. When I started working, I would save up for months for my birthday celebrations. I justified it as me making up for all the times I had an "ordinary" birthday.
For a while, it worked. My birthday celebrations during those years were among the happiest days of my life. In fact, this annual tradition would still be going on if it wasn't for last year.
Here's what happened in a nutshell: I didn't have time to organize the whole thing. I assumed that just the simple fact of me sending poorly timed invites was enough for my invitees to pause their lives so they could join me in celebrating the day I came out of a vagina. What a foolish mistake that was.
I realized right then that everything I did was out of vanity. It was only me trying to make myself feel special, because I always felt unappreciated. The problem was, I'm not charismatic enough for people to just come to my hastily announced, self-indulgent celebration. Only well-loved and wealthy people enjoy that privilege.
So instead of happily celebrating my 25th year on this planet, I just made myself miserable. I was trying too hard to make myself seem important, I ended up proving I wasn't. Of course, the fault here is really mine (note to self: send invites earlier), but it did give me a lot to think about.
What are birthdays, really? Why do we make such a big show of it? Why is it so important to count the number of years before we kick the bucket?
The terrible conclusion I came to was this: it's good for business. Like Valentine's and Christmas, it's a great time for businessmen to prey on people's need to feel appreciated. And what better way to do so than encouraging us to invite family and friends over to spend months of savings on a single day?
But more importantly, I think the modern incarnation of birthdays also give us an excuse to make an entire day all about ourselves. Add the instant gratification factor of social media, and you have an entire society of birthday celebrants all secretly trying to outdo each other.
Did that sound too cynical? Sorry, but that's just how I feel about the whole thing right now. I mean sure, I appreciate other people's parties, and I truly enjoyed some of mine, especially my 24th. Hell, I'd do it all again. But this year, I don't want to depend on other people to make me happy on my birthday. In fact, I don't want that on any other day anymore.
That's why I'm taking a break from celebrating my annual countdown to death this year. There will be no parties. No drinks. No dinner outs, except with my family. Hell, I've even hidden my birthday on Facebook so no one will give me a flood of insincere greetings.
Why am I doing this?
Because this year, I want my birthday to be about me and my thoughts again. I don't want to worry about making a show for other people anymore. But most of all, I want to remember what it's like to have an "ordinary" birthday again, and that means leaving only what matters: me and my family.
Dear friends, I hope you understand that I'm not doing this out of spite. This is not me being resentful at you. Nor is this me being a cynical jerk. This is just me being selfish, and deservedly so. After all, it's my birthday and I'll do what I fucking want to.
I'll just see you next year. Maybe.