Amado holding a balloon from my 2008 birthday

Every year when November 16th rolls around, I think about the most memorable birthday celebrations I’ve had up to this point.  I like to reflect on how much I’ve changed and grown since those funny and very selfish moments in my life when birthdays were accompanied by tantrums and tears.

My 5th birthday celebration was caught on video, hence my stronger memories of the occasion.  I was ECSTATIC to get my first pair of real roller skates.  They were beautiful white with red wheels, and it was my dad, who really knew what I wanted, that gave them to me in a perfect birthday box.  I laced them up and rolled around the family room carpet.  I felt accomplished not because I HAD the skates, but because I was given what I WANTED SO BADLY.  And still, I managed to cry that day because my grandmother did or said something that upset me, for probably no gosh darn reason.  A pouting face in front of the camera and a birthday cake.  WHAT is my PROBLEM!!!

Birthday tears from unfulfilled expectations. 

As an introverted child, I was never one to have MANY friends, but a few CLOSE friends.  So having a birthday party with friends and not just family was always a stressful moment in my life.  Who would I invite?  When I was turning maybe 8 or so, I had invited probably every girl I knew in my class, even though I didn’t care for most of them.  We bobbed for apples, pinned tails on donkeys, it was ridiculous!  I hate games!  When I opened my mother’s gift in front of all those girls I felt HUMILIATED.  CHAPSTICK?  I got CHAPSTICK for my birthday?  Tinkerbell Chapstick of all things!  That day, I was so let down, I cried.  Of course.  Or the time I got a barbie doll and I hated barbie and all things girly.

Eventually, if it was years later I don’t remember, I apologized to my mother for that awful moment in my life.  I cried for my 16th birthday as well.  I don’t remember why and I’m sure it was ridiculous. 

The problem was my expectation and understanding of what birthdays were.  I thought that was the day you’re supposed to get amazing presents and everyone is supposed to give you all the attention you’ve ever craved.  Yes, I’m a middle child.  I wanted attention but didn’t know what to do with it!  As I found my way into college I started despising birthdays because I didn’t know how else to deal with the high expectations and the eventual letdown.  A birthday, I thought, should be like any other day. 

I’ve awoken from both of these beliefs.  A birthday is neither a day of recognition nor a day to forget.  It is, for me, a day to honor quietly like every day that I am breathing.  This 31st birthday, I am thankful and nothing more.  I don’t need a party or a fancy dinner or amazing gifts. I just need a moment to acknowledge that I am here and there are a lot of people who are responsible for that.  I am thankful to have been given the opportunity to just be here to BE.  I exist.  🙂