Today I turn twenty-seven years old. It’s sort of a strange age to be. Not 27 precisely, but the time around twenty-sevenish years old is strange. I’m no longer young in the sense of staying up all night, or driving recklessly, listening to too loud music, or eating Burger King because I don’t understand what real food tastes like. I’ve moved into a few habits that I’m ready to settle with. I listen to one radio station (this one). I’ve accepted the fact that I don’t like fish and probably never will. I have game nights that don’t include shooting any virtual aliens or zombies. When people ask me what I want to do for my birthday I honestly don’t know. Go to dinner or something I guess. In short, I’m getting older.
But I’m still not old. Twenty-seven is maybe not ridiculously young, but it’s still at least stupidly young. I’m old enough to realize I’m not young, but I’m not old enough to be old yet. It almost feels like being a teenager again, except now I grow an exceptional beard.
Perhaps the most difficult change in birthdays is realizing that I don’t really care too much about them anymore. Twenty-seven feels more like a reminder of how much stuff I haven’t accomplished yet than a badge of honor for growing up just a little more. As such, the day simply doesn’t feel very special.
When I was in kindergarten I brought a tub of cookies to school on my birthday because that was what you did. And the teacher gave you a birthday card and a candy bar. And the whole class sang happy birthday. And when you went home you had a party and everyone gave you presents. When I walked into the classroom I placed the tub Mrs. Walker’s desk and sat down without saying anything because I was that kind of a kid. At the start of class she gave a candy bar and a card to Micky Music (I swear to God that is not a pseudonym) whose birthday is March 7th, but that March 5th was a Friday so we sang to Micky anyway while she handed out treats to the class. Mrs. Walker then asked who had brought the tub of cookies. I raised my hand up a little fearfully and squeaked out that they were from me. She asked why I had brought them, and I told her because today was my birthday. Being the amazing, wonderful teacher she was, she was a tad bit mortified that she had forgotten my birthday and honored another student instead of me. She allowed me to hand out my cookies and everyone sang to me. Then, the next Monday she brought me an extra special card and a king size snickers to say sorry.
The point is, in kindergarten we make a big deal out of birthdays. I turned six years old and it was imperative that that be recognized, even though the biggest accomplishment of that year had been learning to write or tie my shoes on my own. This past year I got my first thing published. I started working in the industry I really love and want to be a part of. I paid my taxes and bought my own groceries and cooked my own food. I wrote short stories and poems and started working on two novels. In short, I’ve done so much more this year than I could have hoped to do when I was five. And yet, when I go to my meetings and classes and grocery stores today nobody will congratulate me unless I make a point of telling them that on this day roughly twenty-seven years ago I started life. And it’s not that I don’t want to tell them. I absolutely want their praise and gifts and adoration. But they won’t give them willingly and shouldn’t be forced. I’m not saying this is wrong. Turning six is a much bigger accomplishment for a six year old than turning twenty-seven is for a twenty-seven year old, and it should be all the more congratulated. But at this point in life I realize that my birthday doesn’t matter to anyone. Not really. It’s just another day. For a select few people it’s an excuse to get together and eat slightly better than average food or have a glass of wine.
But whatever the custom, let’s celebrate! After all, it’s my birthday. So here’s a glass of wine I’ll share with you, and a reminder that even though you haven’t achieved the immense accomplishment of six years old for quite a few years, you are still an incredibly special space-time event.