Tuesday was my birthday.
I used to love my birthday. I would count down the months, weeks, days before it in anticipation of the celebration of being older. When you are a kid, you dream of being older and able. Able to drive, drink, work, you know…do the things that grown ups do.
Adulthood, like most things in life we look forward to idealistically, turned out to be a huge disappointment.
I met some friends for frozen custard to “celebrate” the day of my birth (after a lot of arm twisting from my friends). One of the friends has a son who was chatting away as we enjoyed our ice cream. It was a chilly August evening, which is uncharacteristic for Texas in the summer. The boy had on shorts and a t-shirt, but was obviously cold. He pulled his arms inside his shirt as he told us stories about superheroes and nurf guns. Carefree, uninhibited, full of oppurtunity without much disappointment. He is living the life and has no idea.
I don’t know what triggered the shift in feelings about my birthday. Perhaps it was just after I turned 21 and realized there was not another year that was worth getting excited about. Or maybe it was the plan in my head not being realized. You know the one. “I will be married at this age, starting a family at this age, hopefully making enough money at this age to buy a modest house.” Each year that passes marks another step off that plan for me. Here I am, with a college degree that was supposed to offer me oppurtunity, barely making endsmeat for myself. No prospects to speak of on the horizon where it concerns family or career. I feel stuck in this state of useless single dude, wasting away in between dreams, and another year passes.
And then there is this idea of celebrating. I used to love to be the center of a party, the focus of the celebration. As I refelect on that, especially in my high school and college years, that desire was born more out of a desire to be seen as someone special, not out of a pure idea of celebrating. “Its my birthday, I should get the attention.”
Now the thought of that focus being on me is slighty nasueating. I had a near anxiety attack when some friend offered to host a dinner in my honor and told me to invite some friends. All that, for me? All that attention, focus, expectation. I am sweating a bit now thinking about it.
People treat you different on your birthday. “I am of the firm belief that people SHOULD treat you different on your birthday!” my sister said to me quit emphatically. I hate it. I just wanted my birthday to be a normal Tuesday. My favorite moments of the day were the times that I was talking with people who had no idea. Like my little secret. Their normalcy was a gift to me.
I have been reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky the last few days. Besides relating to the main characters transition in high school from a wallflower to a somewhat functioning member of a ragtag group of friends, there is a line in the book that has stuck with me. The main character, Charlie, has a bond with his English teacher. After sharing with his teacher some strange event involving his sister being hit by her boyfriend, the teacher tells Charlie, “We only accept the love we think we deserve.”
You know how sometimes you read a line that rings true to how you see the world even as you realize that it is the wrong view to hold?
My 25th year was not exactly a banner year. I will go out on a limb and call it a near disaster. I still feel like I am reeling from a few of the poor decisions and unfortunate circumstances. My birthday this year didn’t feel like something to celebrate, but to survive. I just needed to keep my head down, fly under the radar, make it through the day without falling apart under the weight of the giant expectations I have placed on myself and have yet to fulfill.
Perhaps it’s time to press into those expectations, let them go, and stop being feeling bad about what my life isn’t and start to see and celebrate what it is. I realize that this isn’t how I should feel. I know I need to move into different thinking about these things.
That will require a long conversation with the Lord, a bigger belief in the gospel, and a lot more faith in Jesus instead of faith in me.
Maybe my 26th year will be when those things in my heart start to change.