a short meditation on birthdays


Today is my birthday. I tell you this not so that you’ll shower me with internet love—though feel free—but because it seems like a nice moment to share why I love birthdays.

Some people hate birthdays. Usually those people are older than thirty. (I’ve never met any kids who hate birthdays. That would be kind of unsettling. But also really impressive.) Those older people say things like, “Let’s pretend it’s not my birthday! I’ll be twenty-nine for the rest of my life!” But really, I think most of those people probably like having birthdays. They just hate aging. It scares them. I get that. It scares me, too. I turn thirty-four today, and I feel twenty-seven, tops. Sometimes I’ll be reading an article in the newspaper, and they’ll refer to someone being thirty-five and I’ll picture some really adult-looking man with a beard. And then I realize I’m almost thirty-five. And then I feel like an idiot.

But, seriously, if the twenty-two-year-old fresh-out-of-college me met me right now, he’d be like, “Whoa, that dude is married?!? With a kid?!? He’s so old. I mean, he’s really cool, but he’s so old.” Then he’d go to someone’s rooftop and get high. But that’s neither here nor there.  

Because, even though I’m perpetually surprised by my age, I do not hate birthdays. I love them. And that love isn’t about a big celebration or tons of presents or the parade of “Happy birthday”s on my FB feed or even the attention. What I truly love is walking around with that feeling that it’s my special day. That’s a ridiculous phrase for a thirty-four-year-old to write, but I can’t think of a better way to put it. It’s my goddamned special day, and I love that.

Right now, for example, I’m sitting in a Starbucks writing this, and nobody knows it’s my birthday. But I know. I’m having a rare one in three-hundred-sixty-five experience, and nobody around me has any idea. Not this older dude in a plaid jacket who’s placed his “You Won’t Be Disappointed If You Will Let Jesus Christ Become the Lord of Your Life” flyers right next to my computer. Not the slightly-less-older dude watching something on his iphone across from me. They don’t know they are sitting at a table with The Motherfuckin’ Birthday Boy. Part of me thinks it’s a tiny taste of what it might be like to be a superhero: Something special is happening to me right now and none of you have any idea. You fools.

But okay, here’s why I really love birthdays: we all have them. Nobody doesn’t have a birthday. It’s perhaps the most equal-opportunity experience we humans share at different times. Everybody was born. Thus, everyone has a birthday. So, unlike the experience of, say, getting a piece of good news, you don’t have to feel like your secret is going to make people feel jealous or bad about themselves. Because again, we all have birthdays! It’s beautiful!

I mean, maybe someone with a winter birthday might be jealous of someone with a summer birthday. But other than that.  

And look, I know some people might get Ringwalded on their birthday and not heralded as much as they deserve to be. But, hopefully, in spite of that, they still have a bit of the feeling. Because it’s their goddamned special day.  

So now you know. I love birthdays. And with that, I’m going to take my really-adult-looking-thirty-four-year-old man-with-a-sometimes-beard-self and walk the street, emitting that birthday glow that only I can see.