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Growing up, my birthday was always the thing. Because I was
painfully spoiled well-loved, my parents went above and beyond each and every year to celebrate the wonder that was “me.” A surprise party when I was seven, my first sleepover at ten, a weekend at Disney with my friends when I was twelve. While you’d think it would have stopped there, my parents didn’t mess around. I had the elaborate sixteenth birthday party with everyone I knew invited. When I turned twenty-one, I went back to Disney (on my parents’ tab, of course) and drank around the world at Epcot, as all UCF students have to do on their big days.
Naturally, after hitting 21, things settled down. They always do, don’t they? That was the big one. The most exciting birthday. I mean, after that going out and getting wasted at the shitty college bars was less appealing, and grabbing some wine and curling up with whatever guy du jour seemed like a better way to spend my time.
Still, as my 26th recently came and went (and with it the unnecessary texts from acquaintance-friends I’ve never had a sincere conversation with), I couldn’t help but feel a pang of sadness. Normally the weeks leading up to the most important holiday of the year included detailed planning of the entire weekend, finding the perfect outfit (hating it, then finding a new one), and reminding everyone I knew to prepare their hearts, souls, and livers.
This year, however, a few close friends got together, had some drinks, and that was that. No elaborate costumes. No two-day hangover. Not even a solid Instagram.
Even though I was somewhat disappointed, I had a good time. Nothing wild. Nothing truly memorable. But a solid evening. I figured that was what being an adult means. Nothing is as great as it used to be. You just sit in a rocking chair, sucking on your dentures, and thinking about your younger years when shit actually mattered.
Except, well, except then my friend started planning her birthday. And I’m not one to sit here and compare and fester and complain (kidding. That’s totally me). The thing is, my friend has no real reason to throw the giant birthday bash she’s planning. While she’s just a little older than me, this isn’t a milestone birthday for her. She’s not 21 and fun or turning flirty 30. She’s just turning one measly year older.
And yet, she’s planning the party of all parties to celebrate the fact that she crawled out of a vagina years ago and hasn’t died yet. At first, I was surprised. I mean, what’s the point? After we get our first grey hairs and wrinkles, it’s only a matter of time before our bodies start to sag and our bones start to shatter. Why even bother anymore? Sure, we can take shots like we did in college for one night, but it always ends the same way — hunched over the toilet with both your bank account and your dignity depleted.
Still, as she started organizing the date, setting the theme, and planning the event, I realized that she wasn’t the one making a big deal out of something that didn’t matter. I was the one who was letting a milestone pass me by.
Sure, hitting 26 or 19 or 31 isn’t something most people would throw an RSVP event for. Nothing changes when we blow out an uneven number of candles or start checking off a different box on health forms. But even though we don’t get another 21st birthday sign or super sweet sixteen, that doesn’t mean it’s not as big of a deal. As the days tick by and the years go on unchecked, it’s easy to think that there will always be another. Another moment to appreciate, another milestone to enjoy.
But the cold, hard, uncomfortable truth is that’s not always the case. As we get older, more friends leave us, more family passes on. And while another “pointless” birthday might not seem like a big deal, it is. Every year, every reason to celebrate is yet another excuse to appreciate the fact that while we’re getting fatter and uglier and more hungover after fewer drinks — we’re still here. We’re still breathing, we’re still alive, and we’re still able to throw a totally over-the-top party for an otherwise meaningless birthday.
Because if there was ever a reason to celebrate, ever a reason to call all attention to yourself and break your current IG record, it’s the fact that despite your alcohol dependency, poor diet, and the sad deterioration of our society, you managed to keep breathing for another year. So, instead of just waiting for the next big birthday or the next big milestone, appreciate all of the ones you have in between. Because when we’re older and uglier and on our deathbeds, we would have wished we threw one more obnoxious party to celebrate the fact that we got to turn twenty-something again and again and again..