Cry if I want to?

A person holding a birthday cupcake.

When others speak about crying on their birthday, it confuses me. Isn't your own dedicated day of celebration the best day of the year?

It was my birthday last week. I turned an age where I would now be as close to my mid-twenties as I was to my early-twenties, and where I was —the horror!—branded now as a ‘mature age student’. It was exciting to enjoy a birthday in a time where I could actually celebrate, rather than have to stay inside due to the pandemic. I spent quality time with my friends, partner, and family. But despite my love for birthdays, I still felt more ambivalent than usual.

Because, the truth is, sometimes birthdays are scary. The thought of whether you have achieved anything since your last birthday can be overwhelming, and frankly, intimidating. You can have people around you tell you that this will be a great year for you (and you smile and say thank you), but didn't they say the exact same thing last year? Didn't they proclaim that 22 would be special and important, and it ended up being quite a tough year?

As much as my friends will remind me of my accomplishments from the last year (for one, finishing my undergraduate degrees), it is easy to consider a birthday as a grim reminder for how much you have not succeeded at. My anxiety tells me that nothing much has changed over the year, and maybe, I have not had much growth in any areas of my life.

And of course, there is the added fact of ageing that is tacked onto a birthday! As kids, we did not have to grapple with this, but as you come to realise that one pack of birthday candles will not suffice, it can feel uncomfortable. Getting older is getting further into the unknown.

So yes, I can still understand the birthday cynicism.

Not entirely though! On your birthday, you can treat yourself to your favourite things. I indulged in a donut, an art gallery visit, and a trip to the bookstore. The unknown can also be exciting; another year ahead, and maybe this will be the year that you accomplish more than you thought! 

Did I cry on my birthday? Not this time. I do get it now though. Birthdays can be scary. But for now, I am going to appreciate the day of celebration, and that there is a promising time ahead.

Tagged in What messes with your head