Growing up, I never understood why my parents ignored their birthdays.
They would sometimes go out to dinner to celebrate, but it would be a cold day in hell if you caught them blowing out the candles on a birthday cake.
They told me, “Birthdays just get less meaningful as you age.” I never understood what they really meant.
I, myself, was a verified birthday whore.
I adored by birthdays and those of other people with equal zest. I loved to throw extravagant parties (often themed) and always made sure everyone in attendance howled the birthday song at peak volume at least twice.
Birthdays were my thing, guys.
The last big birthday bash I threw was for my 26th birthday.
My birthday is May 4, so, of course, I decided to wait until the day after and throw a Cinco de Mayo party.
It came complete with culturally inaccurate decorations, copious amounts of tequila and a red, yellow and green-themed candy bar (yes, that is a real thing, so don't be jealous of my flair).
The party was set to start at 8:30, so I'd made food, there was festive music and I may or may to have been wearing a mini sombrero.
And… not one single soul showed up to celebrate.
That is, except my next-door neighbor, who only served to witness my shame and depression as I took tequila shot after tequila shot in a mini sombrero.
Not my most kickass moment.
Now, not so fast. I am not a lame-o, and my friends don't suck.
They all had perfectly amazing, logical excuses for not showing up that I (almost) instantly forgave. But I never really regained my enthusiasm for birthdays.
It wasn't because I felt sad or unsupported (though, I definitely let myself feel that way for a hot minute).
It was because, as I sat alone that night, I thought about what birthdays really mean and how I really felt about them and my life.
Whether your relatives attack you and grease your nose with butter for good luck, as they do in Canada, or you think it might lengthen your life to eat some really long noodles, like the Chinese, birthdays are celebrated in very different ways around the globe.
For me, I thought birthdays should be a no-holds-barred, we-could-die-at-any-moment tirade.
I thought birthdays should be a no-holds-barred, we-could-die-at-any-moment tirade.
I didn't understand my parents' seemingly dismissive attitude about getting older, so I responded by doing the polar opposite. I would “not go gentle into that good night!”
But on my 26th birthday, I realized what my parents meant when they said birthdays get less meaningful.
It's not that they stopped caring about celebrating, they just realized it's what's in between your birthdays that is significant.
The day itself is really just a day amongst other beautiful days.
I realized the reason I had been so annoyed with my parents for not celebrating their birthdays (and the reason I was so insanely crazy about making sure everyone knew it was mine) was because I was terrified of death.
I was terrified of a life not lived and the fact that I was unsatisfied, even though I had everything I could ever want, materially.
I started analyzing why I felt that way, and came to the conclusion that I needed to travel and see the world.
I was terrified of a life not lived and the fact that I was unsatisfied.
I found what was really important to me, and didn't need the crazy parties to make myself feel worthy anymore.
These days, I don't usually tell many people it's my birthday. Ironically, my parents are the ones who predictably always call me and sing me the birthday song at the top of their lungs.
I sometimes have a chill dinner with close friends, drink a bottle of wine and reflect on the past year of my life.
And you know what? It feels much better than puking up Mexican-colored candies and tequila in a mini sombrero.
It feels secure, genuine and, most importantly of all, fearless.