Birthday Blues

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

It’s my birthday tomorrow and I find myself somewhat disillusioned. It crept up on me. The whole of December did to be fair. And yet, as my birthday has drawn near I’m moved between excitement and overwhelming ambivalence. The reasons for which I am still trying to work out but I think it goes something like this…

My Birthday as a Child

As a child I always looked forward to birthdays. In perhaps a slightly narcissistic way I saw birthdays as the one day people showed they care. In the humdrum of every day life and the multitude of chores, birthdays shone like a bright star. Put succinctly, on my birthday I felt truly special.

I looked forward to my birthday with great enthusiasm as a child. It always confused me that adults did not seem to share this level of glee about their own birthdays. When adults didn’t always know their exact age I was confused. How could they not? Weren’t they counting the days to their next birthday? If adults seemed to brush away comments on their birthday or announce ‘I’m not sure I’m going to celebrate this year’ I was dumbfounded.

Growing Up

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

As I grew up I learnt to temper this enthusiasm to a few weeks before the event. Somehow I learnt that there was a respectable time before one’s birthday in which one could mention it. I heard the unspoken message that as one gets older so must their approach to their birthday mirror this seeming mark of maturity. Along the way I lost my ‘childlike’ enthusiasm for that one day of the year when I felt people noticed me.

Entering into my twenties I was still excited about birthdays. I may not have mentioned it’s impending arrival until someone else brought it up. I didn’t chatter about it endlessly during the oncoming weeks. But I did still celebrate. I had drinks or meals with friends. I took the onus on myself to organise and celebrate my birthday. Looking back I can only remember feeling happy and content to do so.

Birthdays: Then and Now

Image by C B from Pixabay

It is only in the last few years that I have approached my birthday with mixed feelings. Sometimes excitement but often tempered by dread or even sadness. I have also detected a tendency to drift toward apathy. So what has caused this change?

When discussing this with my partner I think I’ve started to understand my changing feelings. As a child the expectation is that everyone else will make the effort to celebrate. Parents/guardians or carers will hold parties for you and organise presents (although I appreciate this is a very privileged way to celebrate). These were the fond memories which elicited such excitement within me. As a child who struggled to feel remarkable or special in any way, who at times struggled to feel loved, birthdays were days where those fears could be laid aside. On my birthday I was loved. People showed me they cared even if they didn’t have time or I misread those signals the rest of the year.

As you get older the celebrations for ones birthday drift far more toward the one whose celebration it is. As I left my teenage years I had to arrange my party. If I wanted to celebrate with friends then I had to arrange something. And it was relatively easy. Having a close group of friends who knew when my birthday was I felt the feeling was mutual. They expected me to provide them with a space to celebrate my birthday. At university and on gap years I lived with these friends and was in close proximity to them without requiring any extra effort. Even if I wasn’t living with my parents or siblings, I was still viewed as a child coming back home at some point. My parents and family still made the effort to celebrate.

Feeling the Birthday Blues

And now? In the past few years I’ve begun to feel that my birthday is a burden to those around me. It’s another thing on their to-do list to mark as an occasion. For my family it’s something I truly believe they are happy to do but not something they are excited for. To them it’s more work to find the time or put the energy in. For my friends, I don’t see them as I used to. We are all at work, most of us full time. We’re all busy. If I want them to remember, let alone celebrate, I have to arrange a party or drinks. I’m sure they’d come BUT it all begins to feel hollow.

Image by Harry Strauss from Pixabay

Here’s the thing. Birthdays are exciting and full of happiness when everyone wants to celebrate with you and genuinely seems excited to do so. Birthdays are less exciting when you feel like the expectation to celebrate is a burden on people. So as I sit here 2 hours away from my ‘special’ day I have no interest in a day which I feel I have thrust upon people. The shine diminishes with everyone person who has apparently forgotten. Or who mentions my birthday in an off-hand remark. At this point, I think I’d prefer tomorrow to be an ordinary day. And if you truly think about it, I guess it is just that.

What do you think about birthdays? Are they something you look forward to or do you have mixed feelings? Let me know in the comments!

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9 thoughts on “Birthday Blues

  1. Hi, Emma! I totally get it. I’ve been excited about birthdays my whole life but I see exactly what you’re talking about. Some years ago I had to celebrate by myself and I felt so pathetic. Nobody could make it and I felt I needed to CONVINCE them to celebrate with me, so I dropped it and spent the day on my own.

    However, now I have someone I share my life with who gets as excited about it as I do. I’m sure you’ll find someone like that as well and birthdays will begin to shine all over again 🙂

    In the midtime, you can dedicate this special day to do something you really love! Life is wonderful, and we all should celebrate it!

    Have an awesome birthday,


    1. Thanks 🙂 I’m happy to say that this birthday is turning out rather nicely. I feel very spoilt.
      I even feel slightly silly for my thoughts but as my wonderful partner reminded me this morning I don’t have to apologise for how I feel!

  2. Ugh, I totally get this. When my birthday approaches I always feel that bubbling sense of excitement I felt as a kid. But when it’s the actual day, that excitement dies when I realize I’m a grownup and birthdays aren’t the joyous and exciting event they were when I was a kid. Thanks for this post!

  3. First off, Happy Birthday to you – I hope you had a fab day ♥ . As for birthdays, I’m that person super childlike about their big day, and I definitely get that from my mum. She believes that it is super important to celebrate every birthday and she is in her 60’s now, and I love that idea. My dad can always seems to take or leave his birthday, whilst my partner behaves like it is just another day < which I do not let him do! I'm 100% on team let's-celebrate-the-crap-outta-this-day when it comes to b-days! ???

  4. Hi Emma! I absolutely love how real you are with your writing. This was beyond relatable- it’s so odd how things change as we grow, how they used to being us joy and now sometimes bring dread. Biethdays are special, no matter what age you’re turning, and I’m sure everyone around you recognizes that as well. Despite everything, I hope you had an amazing day for yourself, you deserve it!

    Happy belated birthday! ?

    – h.

  5. I’ve always hated birthdays. I hate the fact that I’m getting older and the fact that if I don’t arrange something to do then no one else will bother. I usually just pretend my birthday isn’t happening. Birthdays were fun as a kid but now they’re something I dread!

  6. I know this feeling oh so well, every year it feels the same and its awful. It seems to get better when you can spend it with loved ones, but waking up on your own is horrible 🙁

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