I recently celebrated a birthday. And I think I’ve figured out what it is that I love about birthdays.
It isn’t the excitement of getting older. That stopped being exciting in my 20s, especially when I was going through that phase where I was invited to a wedding about once a month, and it felt like everyone else’s lives were moving on and I wasn’t.
It isn’t the excitement of getting to treat myself. I’m an adult. I do what I want. I treat myself plenty of other times. And I suspect that people who like treating themselves on their birthdays probably do too.
For me, the best part of a birthday is feeling loved. And this birthday was one of the best yet by that measure.
This is the first year that I have had a fair number of coworkers on my Facebook friends. For years, I always kept Facebook and my job separate as much as possible, just because I didn’t ever want to say anything on Facebook that would get me in trouble at work. A couple years ago, I did start following and occasionally replying on a Facebook group set up by the local chapter of the teachers’ union where I work, and a few coworkers started to find me there. I allowed it, and I added a few more of my own, the ones I tend to talk to about more than just work stuff, because compared to most people I know, I don’t really share a whole lot of controversial stuff and I’m being paranoid about nothing.
So when I got to work on the morning of my birthday, several of my coworkers knew that it was my birthday. We had a staff meeting in the afternoon, and they sang to me and gave me cake. (The principal’s secretary got it all on Facebook Live, and a former coworker who retired commented on it and said hi, so I’m now back in touch with a former coworker whom I hadn’t seen in over a year.) Two of my classes also sang to me, although I wrote up on the board next to the date that it was my birthday.
This weekend, I invited people over to help me celebrate. I always tell them that gifts are not required, but a few of them bring gifts anyway, and the ones who do are usually so thoughtful about it. I have one friend who makes artwork of pixelated retro video game characters out of plastic beads; my game room with all my old video games is decorated with quite a few of his creations, of which he always brings a few new ones every year as birthday presents. My friend who made the cake made it in the shape of a basketball jersey in Sacramento Kings colors, with my last name and the number 42, both because I turned 42 and because of the number’s use in the works of Douglas Adams. (There was a little more to the story of the cake, but I don’t need to get into that here.) Someone else made me a t-shirt of a Jeopardy game board, with categories that would be perfect for me, like Mathematical Equations, Sacramento Kings, and “Firefly” Quotes.
I think what makes this all the more special for me is that I remember a time when I really didn’t have friends. I know what it’s like to be on the absolute bottom rung of the social ladder, and because of that I will never take for granted the people in my life now.
Thank you all.