Amongst my friends, our birthdays are evenly scattered throughout the year, which ensures there’s always a festivity.
At each one, though, the birthday girl will be reminded of her aging status, while those with birthdays months away brag about their youth.
I’ve even had one friend refuse to do anything on her birthday, noting “she’s too old” to celebrate, anyway.
My friend's remark left me baffled because she’s only 23 years old. Why would she consider 23 to be such a definitive age?
She isn’t alone, though, in her rationale; I've come to observe a general apprehension amongst my peers toward getting older this past year.
Last year wasn’t this problematic, but maybe the aging anxiety was eased by blasting Taylor Swift’s "22." Yet, turning 23 has plagued most of my friends into fear.
As my own birthday neared, I wondered if I would do the same.
Getting older can be handled in two distinct ways. The traditional route is to be miserable; to look at the decreasing days on a calendar in fear.
Each X marked on the calendar is matched with doubt about past decisions and the limited time ahead.
This is the mindset many of my peers share, gasping with shock and denial when they note how much time has elapsed.
“I can’t believe it’s...” is the opening remark for many of these occasions when a new month, new season or a new year arrives.
However, I don’t want to live like this. I want to live like a person who wakes up both with gratitude and excitement.
As each day ends, I don’t want to fear the passing of time. I want to cross each day off with the reassurance I lived that day well and to the best of my abilities.
Getting older isn’t a burden; it is a fortune not everyone can experience.
Why would I wake up on my birthday or any day and complain of being 23? Why would I complain of the good health and the opportunities that have gotten me to this point?
Wouldn’t it be more sensible to express appreciation over these matters? Shouldn’t we celebrate getting older as an annual gift, instead of a punishment?
The obsession with being young is truly misguided. What reason do we have to envy those younger than us? Why would we stagnate in nostalgia over our own youthful days?
Youth holds possibilities, a promise of a future and potential, but getting older has realities and manifested experiences of the past.
These realities speak as the achievements of work accomplished, of relationships sustained and trials survived.
Youth is not worthy of our envy because with age comes experiences and suffering, worn as badges of pride.
Thus, our fear of getting older must be overcome; it can be fought with appreciation and a will to live as an active participant of life.
Say yes more often than no. Reword your forgotten bucket list as an actual to-do list. Commit yourself to your wildest ambitions and decide you will live your life with purpose.
Perhaps, this is too much of an optimistic prescription, but imagine if you won the lottery; would you wake up each day bleakly? No, you would be exhilarated, living to your true potential.
Now realize you have already won a lottery with the life you have currently. You are here, aren’t you? You are a breathing, living entity, capable of accomplishing the greatest of feats; that itself is a fortune.
Each birthday we are lucky enough to experience should not be met with despair, but with gratitude.
I want to reflect back on own my life with the pride and joy of knowing I lived it well. In order to do so, I refuse to succumb to the fear that defines our generation.
When my birthday arrives in July, I will welcome 23 into my life and celebrate the gift it truly is.