It is my birthday. What does that mean?

This post was written on my birthday *but will not be published on my birthday* (i.e. October 3 is not my birthday).

Today is my birthday. I mentioned this to a Norwegian woman, and she wished me a happy birthday. My parents also sent me an email. Those are the only times today people wished me a happy birthday.

I am still travelling, and I just arrived in a city where I have never been before and where I know nobody. They have no clue that it is my birthday.

Something inside me says that I *have* to do something special because it is my birthday – that is part of why I am writing this post.

But … why can’t my birthday be a day like any other day? That is what today felt like. It was not bad, but it was not special either.

And I think expecting birthdays to be especially good can be counterproductive. If this were an ordinary day, I would be satisfied, but part of my feels like I should have had a ‘better’ birthday.

I think a bit of my inner disappointment stems from the fact that this is a reminder of how atomized and solitary my life is. It has been that way pretty much since I left California. Sure, I have friends in Taiwan, but during my years there I never established myself socially the way I had been in California (though perhaps, aside from cultural barriers, it would be unrealistic to replace 20+ years of a social life in just three years). One of my highest priorities when I stop travelling is to renew old social ties and form new ones.

My father had a big birthday party for his 40th birthday. He decided that would be his last birthday party. Nowadays, he thinks it is good when he can pass a birthday without a single person wishing him a happy birthday, but somehow someone always remembers that it is his birthday and mentions it to him. He says that he does not want to be reminded of how old he is, but now I wonder … does he also not want to be reminded about how socially isolated he is now? Not that he is totally socially isolated – he has my mom, myself, his brother, the neighbors, and the online communities he participates in – yet if he tried to hold a party as big as his 40th birthday party, he would have trouble getting the same number of guests. He does not seem to mind the way his social life is … but maybe he just does not show his dissatisfaction.

Maybe I should try having a big birthday party next year to gauge the state of my social life.


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2 thoughts on “It is my birthday. What does that mean?

  1. Happy birthday! 😃 this was something I thought a lot about this year. I turned 30 in late August, and decided to do something totally different by going to a meditation retreat where I didn’t know anyone. Oddly though, when I mentioned it was my birthday that weekend (as the reason why I’d come…we were going around in a circle saying that), people were constantly wishing me happy birthday, even people I’d never talked to. It was nice to not have to worry about how many friends I had and just focus on being present. That was the best birthday I’d had since I was 21 and had all my college friends with me. But generally, I agree, the best moments seem to be random, they’re not necessarily on birthdays or other special days.

    • Yeah, I think it is better to let go of the idea that birthdays should be special, and just let them be randomly special (or not). On the other hand, perhaps it is good to have a day to celebrate oneself? But that does not necessarily have to be a birthday … for example, in the past few years, January 4 and January 6 have been special days to me, more special than January 1st.

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