It’s strikingly consistent, every year around this time, I start to feel a deep sense of melancholy settle like a dark storm cloud over my heart. It’s not generally something I can tangibly pin-point or explain. Trying to get people to understand why you hate your birthday is like trying to explain why you hate puppies. The conclusion always feels like a non-sequitur, and most people just end up looking at you with pitty… which is not helpful by the way.
This feeling of apprehension started on my twentieth birthday when I was a sophomore in college. For some reason this was the first time in my life I felt the distinct weight of adulthood settle on me along with its deluge of expectations and timelines and possibilities with a full measure of unpredictability, all of which felt suffocating like an impediment on my youth. Gone were my teenage years [not that I’m complaining, let’s get real]. But this was the first time I really understood that I was getting older, and there is in fact no turning back the clock. And ever since this realization I have hated my birthday. I’m talking genuine dread and loathing as the day approaches. I feel it creep up on me as soon as February bids its adieu and March, staying true to its name, asserts itself by marching me ever onward toward what feels like a death sentence.
For whatever reason, this year has been particularly overwhelming in comparison to years past, and as the day quickly approaches, in a ditch effort to try and get my sh*t together so I can put on a happy face for all the cake-eating, candle-lighting, happy birthday-singing enthusiasts that are just waiting to smother this curmudgeon with resplendent cheer, I am doing everything in my power to identify what exactly it is that so faithfully cultivates in me this annual proclivity toward gloom.
For me birthdays are simply a reminder that time is lost. All the things I imagined I’d be or have accomplished by the time I was 26 look far different on this side of reality. And for better or for worse, life simply is what it is at this point. But this life, my life, is for the better… I know that. I am so incredibly blessed to be right where I am at this exact point in time. It’s ludicrous how much pressure I feel to have things figured out. But the truth of the matter is, we never really arrive, and that is both aggrevating and liberating at the same time, depending on the perspective.
As I was thinking about all of this this past week, this quote came to mind. It’s one of my favorites and a reality I need reminding of, apparently at least once a year…
I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me, but it’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst. And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain, and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry. You will someday.
-Kevin Spacey / American Beauty
Who knew Kevin Spacey could be so wise?
But seriously, I do this. I hold on so tight and get wrapped up in all the what-if’s and the might-have-beens and the should haves, could haves, and on and on… and I miss the opportunity to appreciate all the beauty that is surrounding me. Why is it so difficult to just let go, breathe, and let all the fragile beauty of life flow through me like rain? I love that imagery.
Tomorrow is my birthday. And today, even though I’m digging my heels in a little, I’m choosing to let go. For once, I’m going to cut myself some slack. I’m 26 [almost], and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities and experiences that the last 25 years have brought me. And I’m genuinely excited for all those that lie before me yet [God willing]. So pop the cork and light the candles, this year I’m going to have my cake and eat it too, because it’s my party damn it, and I do what I want! [disclaimer, this may include tears, don’t panic, apparently they’re normal these days].
I leave you with something my lovely coworker sent me today. Usually I find memes annoying, but this one made me chuckle [an improvement as of late], and it felt appropriate in light of this glass-half-empty post… :)