Today it happens to be my birthday. October 13; this now the 22nd time I have come across this date. Many say that 13 is an unlucky number, but for me, the unlucky number was 16 though I do not wish to talk about such particulars this evening and I am more interested in birthdays in general.
Birthdays seem to be accepted as both a time of celebration and hope but at the same time it is one of dread and despair. Some birthdays come with an increase in responsibility and societal expectations, particularly the eighteenth in which on arbitrarily passes from being an adolescent to an adult, though even it is still expected that “young adults” are not very mature. Such progressions can come both with dread of increased work though there also comes the hope of being taken more seriously.
The particularly young, those still in the single digits of age see birthdays as something wonderful. They cannot wait to grow older and have what they see as the perks of adults such as staying up as late as they want and being able to set the rules. When we actually are older we think those young fools for wishing that their youthful days would end. Of course we cannot blame them for being excited about their birthdays as they truly are limited with what they can do when they are young and when the birthday does come around, they get to see all of their friends, get gifts, and eat cake. Each year for the very young opens up new opportunities and expands their minds and grows their bodies.
With every year of aging there of course comes the impact of the aging itself. We lose some of our youthful energy and the young grow stronger as their bodies ripen and the old grow weaker. For the older sort there comes all sorts of new fears as to whether they are now too old to be doing certain things, whether it be dating and continuing their search for true love, or perhaps playing sports that their minds still wish to indulge in but their bodies have withered too much. Even when we are young and growing stronger, the knowledge that one day these years will be weighing down on us some day. We know birthdays are what kill us even if they do so slowly and it takes many of them ganging up on us to finally topple us. Even so, birthdays come with celebration and are supposed to be happy times for us. I often wonder why this is.
It seems to me that the most logical explanation is that while we tend to think of our birthdays as being all about ourselves, they are in fact about those around us celebrating our continued presence upon this earth. That makes the fact that we are given gifts on our birthday much more sensible. Making us forget that we are one year closer to the grave is a useful side effect of their celebration. In turn, we celebrate the birthdays of others and make them forget their woes for a while as well.