Birthdays Don’t Suck So Bad After All

Birthdays Don’t Suck So Bad After All

As I prepare to settle in for yet another birthday, another 365 days spent floating adrift on a giant rock hurtling through the outer reaches of space in an elliptical orbit around a flaming ball of hydrogen and helium, I    marvel at how the time has gone by.  How the hell am I 53?  This isn’t a complaint, mind you.  The fact that these birthdays have stacked up in such a mind-numbing whirlwind of a pace suggests that the ride has been a good one.  In a way, I am grateful for each and every one of those candles on the cake.

But please don’t feel the need to go sending me birthday wishes.  Nobody gives a damn about your birthday when you get to be my age.  Birthdays are for kids so that they can make a nuisance of themselves at the local Chuck E. Cheese after eating way too much pizza and Carvel ice cream cake.   In your 20’s, the ritual transforms into some form of hedonistic self-indulgence fest that lingers into the wee hours of the morning.  But once you hit your 30’s, people just stop putting in the effort.  Some people hit that age and start to do whatever they can to prevent anyone from getting even a hint that its their birthday, opting instead to hang out with their cat curled up in a ball on the couch.  Others gormandize all of the birthday attention they can possibly muster, making sure that the day is all about them (which, in fairness, it usually is anyways).  Both extremes annoy me.  Better to see it for what it is: an opportunity to reflect and move on.

If you know anything about Jehovah Witnesses, you know they don’t celebrate birthdays.  You probably also know that they do not read this column, but that’s beside the point.  In their minds, spending the whole day celebrating oneself is putting oneself before God, which violates the whole Ten Commandments thing.  I get where they are coming from, but I have always found it sad to not have at least one day a year that’s a little special for you.  One day where somebody gets you a piece of cake.  A day where they buy you a drink at the bar.  A day where that $20 goes a little further for your lap dance at the strip club.  Making one day a year just a little bit special for each of us shines a tiny light into the worlds we each dwell in.

But more than anything, birthdays are a time to take stock of our lives and measure what we are grateful for and what we would like to improve.  It’s a perfect time for a little self check-in.  Just like Daylight Savings Time reminds us to change the batteries in the smoke detector, so does our birthday remind us to acknowledge and assess what another year means.  After all, we are still above ground.  How much longer, we do not know, but the path in getting here can tell us much about where we go from here.

As I turn 53, I recognize that there is definitely more pavement in the road stretching out behind me than there is in what what still lies ahead.  All the more important to take hold of what remains of our lives and spend it doing what makes us tick.  Yeah, whatever brings you joy- do more of that.  Sure, the physical and mental limitations that encroaching aging puts upon us might have something to say about it, but where do you derive your purpose from?  Follow that wherever it may lead.

In the hustle and bustle of our day to day lives, we often stray from that vision, lose sight of what matters to us most.  Birthdays are a good time to reset and refocus on who we want to be and who we want to become, even when it seems that we may be too old for that kind of self-centred nonsense.  Instead of being yet another yearly reminder of how close we are to the other side of the eternal cosmic divide, birthdays can also be a reminder to spend whatever time we have wisely.  Stop doom scrolling Facebook and go for a stroll on a deserted beach naked by the moonlight.  Don’t waste your time and energy watching reality television.  Go take a pottery class or learn how to play an instrument.  Don’t do what you did yesterday.  It’s your birthday, for crying out loud.  Go do something you’ve never done before.

So maybe birthdays don’t suck so much after all.  Sure they might be yet another painful reminder of the indelible passage of time, the slow but consistent march towards an eternal grave, but they are also a time to appreciate the journey we have taken and the one we still have before us.  At least you’re still around to keep counting birthdays in the first place.  

And hey, any day with cake and lap dances can’t be that bad….

Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works.  Read his blog TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at