I run into the same struggle every year: My birthday is coming up and I argue with my friends and family about it. I don’t like celebrating the day in that way and they call me a grouch.
I don’t publish my birthday and have at times obsessed with how few phone calls I could get by with.
So what’s wrong with my birthday?
I feel that I don’t really have much to do with it. It isn’t a day I have chosen. I didn’t really accomplish anything on that particular date to be proud of. I don’t really have too many memories attached with my actual birth date either. Subconscious ones most probably – but nothing that comes to my mind right now.
I used to celebrate my birthday..somehow. Of course I did so as a child and I was excited about getting “stuff”. Later my focus shifted on creating he parties in order to serve my friends and create lasting memories. That mission has been accomplished.
Eventually these days came to an end. I moved from Luxembourg to the US and it was rather easy to escape a set of expectations generated by parties I hosted on earlier birthdays of mine.
Struggles with birthday singing
I am very passionate about music. That can go both ways. I always hated the song “Happy Birthday” with a passion. The Stevie Wonder version is slightly better but still annoys the heck out of me. I hate singing the song – you will always spot a bitter look on my face when I do so. I also dislike listening to it when others sing it to me.
Who’s in charge?
I have been told I get to do whatever want at my birthday. Of course I am supposed to pick up the phone. Of course I am supposed to blow out the candles. Of course people will sing “AT” me – even they know I hate the song. There is a set of expectations that must be met – otherwise everyone will give you the guilt trip.
I am also supposed to unpack presents. Many times I don’t even get to chose when to do so. But I pretty much have everything material I want. The things I don’t have in life usually don’t come in the form of birthday presents.
And there is the cake. Who is still baking a real cake for someones birthday? All these spongy sugar bombs from the grocery store make me want to run to another planet.
How fake is it?
I am not sure how much of the little attention I receive that day is really genuine. Do the words “you have to call him, it is his birthday” or “make sure you don’t forget his birthday” sound familiar to you?
The same applies to birthday cards: How many of them are truly genuine? How many of them are written out of obligation?
And then there is Facebook. I receive numerous requests to share my birthday each year from people that notice that my birthday isn’t published. It isn’t there for a reason so I ignore the requests.
The day I met my wife, Christmas, Thanksgiving, the day when my brother and I started our business and a few other dates make me feel like celebrating. These days are all filled with spirit.
I want every day of my life to be real. I am having a hard time faking it. I also don’t like if people fake it with me. In order to avoid this in the first place I don’t open up to the public when it comes to my birthday.
Now how does it look like?
One friend of mine calls me every year. He really doesn’t have to do it. He just really cares. I know he does. Therefore I am looking forward to his call. He really earned this spot the hard way.
My family calls and for some of them it is also more than a duty call. Besides that I usually end up in some public space where nobody knows me and enjoy keeping my little secret.
Another friend of mine and I once had a nice arrangement: We agreed to ignore each other’s birthdays and instead chose a separate day to celebrate our friendship. That works for me.
Of course I am also a big hypocrite
There are a few people that are very close to me that I want to acknowledge at their birthdays. I simply can’t ignore that. I know that their understanding of their birthday is vastly different than mine. I really want the people I love to have a great birthday and will do my little piece to add to it. How could I not try to make my wife or my daughter feel special at their birthdays? I order cakes, I buy candles, I even sing Happy Birthday – I just makes sure they don’t see my face while I am doing it ;-)
Maybe there are more people out there whose wish is to just reflect on life and enjoy the day without too much attention. It really is your day and you should be in charge of it.