It’s my birthday today.
This event has occasioned the usual array of annual thoughts related to the future, the past, regrets, the passage of time, cellulite, and why I never seem to enjoy turning a year older. What’s worse, the day is typically preceded by a few weeks of aforementioned thoughts. It’s like tax season, only for life experiences. How much time have I spent doing the things I want to this past year? How much time have I wasted? What do I still owe and to whom?
This Seinfeld clip is funny not just because he’s trying to not be funny, but because there is more than a modicum of truth in what he’s saying.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my birthday at 16. I reveled in my freedom at 18. At 21, I had a great time. And then, at 25, it began. The worry.
The worry was – and in many ways still is – that I would never fulfill all my promise, that my dreams would remain just that, that I’d never be successful at the things that mattered most to me. My then-roommate Jenn watched me dramatically throw myself on my bed, weeping that I was “too old” to start a new career, that I had “wasted” my time in college, and that I was “doomed.” I told her that, at 22, she couldn’t possibly know my plight.
Now I realize that although I’m a tad dramatic (just a smidgen), almost everyone can relate to these birthday fears. And no matter how much I accomplish or where I am in my life, when my birthday rolls around, I feel the same way. I don’t ever feel like I’ve done enough, or loved enough, or written enough, or read enough, or gone to the beach enough. No one really does.
And every year we vow to make all those things happen.
This year is a particularly hard one, however, because I am 39. As my best friend from high school reminded me, I have 364 days left until 40. And although I used to think that mid-life crises were fake and self-indulgent, I am officially issuing a mea culpa to all those 40-year-olds I have judged in the past. I get it. I understand. Somehow this rather arbitrary life milestone just makes all those questions about how I have spent my time seem to matter even more.
It’s all just an illusion, but like any good one, I can’t help but get sucked into my role in this play.
Other people are always far happier about my birthday than me. I dread the “Happy Birthday!” phone calls, the ones in which I’m expected to be happy myself. I also hate the fact that people want you to make a big fuss out of it. “What are you doing?” they ask. I don’t know. Playing Dragon Age II all day while eating a bag of Cheetos? I don’t want to make a fuss this year, though I’ll still take the presents. Keep the presents coming, I say.
Next year my birthday will be a BFD. I will officially make a big fuss, fo sho. My plans involve going to Antigua and remaking the Rio video. And no, I’m not kidding. I’m serious. Because that is one of my biggest regrets, that my life didn’t turn out more like a Duran Duran video. So, for one week, I’m going to make it a Duran Duran video. (You’re welcome to join me, fellow Duranies and 80s fans and people turning 40 who want to do something crazy for the occasion.) Then, maybe, I’ll stop hating birthdays. But somehow, I doubt it.