Up until very recently, I was never a fan of birthdays. I just felt like I was constantly disappointed by them and that getting older was much more of a cause for mourning, rather than celebration.
Maybe it’s because I always had irrationally high expectations for birthdays to bring some major physical and emotional transformation. When birthday after birthday I still felt the same, I was over the whole celebrating thing.
Each passing year started to bring more responsibility than the one that preceded it. Getting older wasn’t about wild freedom and a parade of hopeless lovers, but about waiting in line at the mechanic to fix your car and filing taxes. When the numbers in my age started to rise, all I could think about was trying to get a refund.
Working in healthcare, the majority of patients I see are ill and elderly. I saw the consequences of growing older every day – knee replacements, hip replacements, and loneliness. I started feeling like I was inevitably going to end up like one of my patients; alone and heavily medicated for pain in an old hospital bed. (My mind tactfully ignored the cheerfully aging population who enjoyed their lives and spent their recovery surrounded by loved ones or peacefully meditating.)
It honestly freaked me out. If all I had to look forward to was paying the bills and getting some powerful narcotics, then I’d like to push pause on life and refuse to let it move forward.
It was quite the healthy way of thinking…
But this year I feel different.
Not so much in a Princess Diaries transformation type of way, but more in a self-growth manner. This year, I’m not feeling any sort of aversion to my birthday but nor am I counting down to it. It’s just there, and I’ve accepted it.
It signifies that I’m another year older. I’ve left my teenage years behind and am on the precipice of my twenties which historically speaking, should be roaring.
I don’t just see increased responsibilities like refining resumes or paying for mortgages, but the chance to start a new job and set up a new home. I’m finally seeing the future for what it promises, rather than what it threatens.
Being one year older means I’m closer to graduating. I’m closer to making a huge change in my life and starting a new life in a new city once I finish school. I’m closer to applying to grad school and being inspired by new professors. I’m closer to opportunity.
I feel as though my generation romanticizes the past. We seem to hold a general skepticism of social media and technology, yet we thrive on it. We’re the future but we wish we were the past. The only guarantee we have is that we won’t be forever young.
Maybe the optimism is because I’ve been working with kids lately rather than the aged, but I really don’t yearn to be young again. The kids I work with have yet to go through the awkward years of middle school, or the pressures and stresses of high school. They still have years of bad haircuts and cringe-inducing outfits to survive. They’ve got to apply to university or college, or figure out what work they’d like to get into. They have to endure irrelevant math tests and English projects.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m so damn relieved I don’t have to go through all of that again.
I made bad outfit choices and bad friend choices. I got bangs (and regretted them) and settled with long layers instead. I realized that leggings are the holy grail and jeans should be avoided at all costs. I applied and got in to all of my post-secondary schools and picked a place where I fit right in. I went from shy, quiet girl to confident, out-going woman.
Birthdays shouldn’t be lamented, but celebrated. Each year you age and survive a slew of challenges and trials that you never would’ve thought you could. Each coming year, you’ll continue to conquer what life throws at you, even if you make a few missteps along the way.
You’ll learn, you’ll grow, you’ll move on.
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