I’ve always had an eye for the good stuff. (Pictured: me reading a Harlequin trashy novel at the age of 1. Upside-down.)
I turn 37 in a few hours (Monday). I am usually a person who likes to celebrate a birthday. I enjoy buying my own presents and planning my ideal day, but this year felt different. I don’t know if this marks my arrival to the wasteland of the later years, where it might take a meteor to crash into my consciousness just to be excited about something. For many years I observed the “adults” who did not celebrate their birthdays because it was Just Another Day. But I really hoped I would never be like them. I wanted eternal child-like wonder. The anticipation and excitement for pretty things and cake and people to share in the celebration of me being alive– my one day of everything orbiting around my existence. I swore I would never fall prey to the trappings of adulthood, where everyone gets boring and weathered by time.
And yet here I am, annoyed, bored, and depressed about another year of life. Definitely weathered by time. It feels like my 87th birthday.
I know, I know. 37 is still young. But from where I stand in my over-analyzing world, I’m not 21 anymore, and I am rapidly losing my youth in this brutal and fleeting experience of being a human.
I need to digest my time served and look over the evidence of how I’ve spent the years so far. Am I doing the things I want to do before I die? Is there something I have not figured out yet? What can I still learn? What can I do? How should I change? What am I doing right? What should I focus on? What am I wasting my time on?
The most important question: what will I regret?
I guess I’m very concerned about being a good consumer of the time I have left on Earth.
All of this processing has zapped my desire to do anything special to mark my 37th year of an existence. Instead, I find myself desiring solitude, wanting to retreat to a place of quiet reflection and contemplation as I watch the day pass without any pomp and circumstance.
To be honest, I feel like birthdays come with a lot of pressure. Pressure to have something worthwhile to show for the last year of living. Pressure to be ready to charge into a new year ready to achieve bigger and better things. Pressure to have a great day and savor 24 hours of a day earmarked just for me (and Sally Jesse Raphael, George Harrison, and Renoir). It’s too much pressure. When did I become so squeamish over birthdays?!
Kenneth died two months after I turned 34. I have spent 34, 35, and 36 in an exile of survival marked by bouts of loneliness, stress, sadness, but also happiness and new life experiences and beginnings. It has been both the worst years of my life and some of the best. But I’m not where I expected to be. Your mid-thirties are not to supposed to be spent like an 80-something raising toddlers.
The past week has felt like a cocktail of trepidation and dread with a splash of anxiety. I’d rather dig in my heels and not walk the plank any further, because I know there are shark-infested waters out there and I’m not in a hurry to get any closer to the edge. I’d rather just sit here with my fears and forlornness, mulling over what I have lost, where I am, and what there might be in the years to come.
The steady hand of time pushes us along, with or without our consent. We choose how to fill in the inevitable minutes and seconds. I know I have to choose to make the most out of my time.
But right now I’m busy wallowing in my woes over a life that did not go as planned. Now that I have typed all of this out, it does seem stupid. But I cling to my pity party anyway, at least until I get it out of my system.
This must be why adults ignore their birthdays. If you don’t see it, you can’t be over-the-top depressed about it.
Oh well. If we’re lucky, life goes on.
For my birthday, I’m going to make a ton of doctor appointments and give myself the gift of health. I’m also going to gift myself some time alone, and I’m going to stop being a curmudgeon and indulge in things I enjoy, like some tres leches cake and getting my nails done. Maybe my kids will even remember what day it is. Maybe.