I was going to wait and post this essay on my birthday, but with the world being the way it is - and the security problems that come with bandying your birthdate around the world - I thought I would post it today. I wrote this essay originally on my thirtieth birthday, so it's been a few years (and it's been through a few revisions since then). Still, this is pretty much the essay as I wrote it--warts and all.
A Celebration of Life
“Oh no, not another birthday!” is a phrase that can be heard around the world. In fact, there are greeting cards are devoted to joking about the impending doom of another birthday. Birthdays are not the horror that many make it out to be – they are a reminder of life. They are not, as I have heard people say, ‘another day closer to being dead’, but another day to look forward to being alive and a day to look back at our accomplishments.
Life is a celebration, and what is a more poignant reminder of our lives than the day we first took a breath? Most people dread their birthdays as if they were looking forward to a root canal -- I know this because there have been times in my life when I dreaded this date. The most important thing is not that we dread this day of all days, but why we dread it.
Do we fear our own mortality and therefore shun any reminder that we have aged another year? Is our sense of life so shallow that we cannot see that the day of our individual births is a day to rejoice? Or do we merely join in with the rest of the mob in decreeing that we are forever 29 in hopes that 30, or 40, or 50 will never come? As I look backward at those times I have dreaded the date of my birth, I can easily cite all of the above among my reasons. I would rather look instead to the days of my life when I reveled in my birthdate.
When I was a child, I looked at my birthday as my one special day -- just for me. Happy Me Day! This comes from being the youngest of five children in a lower income family. There was little that was specifically mine. As I grew to young adulthood, I celebrated the day because it was another year I had survived -- sad but true. Now I see that the date is worthy of celebration, not only for me, but for each one of us on the anniversary of our births. It is worthy because it is the date marking our entry into civilization -- it signals the beginning of our chance to rise toward becoming a rational animal. Each successive date marks the passing of another year toward becoming all that we have the potential to be -- realized or unrealized.
This is precisely why so many dread the day, because they are looking at the unrealized in their lives, and not the goals they have realized or the goals they are working toward realizing. As humans we must always move forward toward the goals and to dwell on the unrealized without progressing to make it a reality is one of the most unproductive pursuits a man can undertake. To shun the date of your birth in attempt to evade the memory of missed goals is to evade the goals themselves. So you didn’t become a doctor (or a lawyer or a writer) by the time you were 25. If that is still your goal then your birthday shows you that you are embarking on another year in which you can either accomplish it or work harder toward accomplishing it. If it is no longer a goal, then the passing of it makes no difference and your birthday shows that you have time to establish new goals.
It is this we must remember on the anniversary of our birth -- birthdays serve not as a reminder of all that we have left unaccomplished, but all that we may yet accomplish. Your birthday is not a day to remind you that you are closer to the end of your lives, but a day to remember that you still have life left to live.
When my birthday finally arrives, I'll be thinking of this and hoping it's helped someone else reclaim the day of their birth as a happy time. =oD
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