I Don’t Really Like My Birthday… Really, I Don’t!

Every year, my birthday rolls around and suddenly, I am a year older. It’s never a true surprise – it’s a certainty. My birthday, that happens to fall in December, approaches just as the holidays do and I use similar refrains: “I can’t believe it’s this time of year already”, “it just completely crept up on me”, “I know, it’s crazy it’s almost here”.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to generally dislike my birthday. It’s something of a combination of the attention theoretically being focused on me and what an exciting day it is…right? Or is it that that’s what I’m expected to look forward to? Because typically, I don’t. It’s supposed to be fun and celebratory but a lot of times, I just sort of go through the motions to get any of the festivities over with. I always show up to dinners a few friends will organize or cake in the conference room with my coworkers and enjoy myself.

But I’ve started to notice this hollow sort of feeling that lingers over the course of the actual day and the ones leading up to it. Is it because I’m waiting for something, like an ex to call, having remembered? Maybe it’s that I truly don’t know what presents I want because I generally have possessions and goods that I like and don’t want or need anything else? Or do I just not enjoy having that shining light directed on me because it’s “my day” or heaven forbid, “my week” (or “month”)?

When I really think about it, I think there’s something that intersects with why I generally don’t like my birthday that much – I struggle with taking care of myself, period. It’s not something I’m entirely open about, nor do I think I’ve written about it before, but I have a really hard time bestowing genuine and meaningful self love on myself. It’s further trickier because I do the basics – I groom and shower, cook and clean for myself, and try to work out a couple times a week. I aim to get a decent amount of sleep every night and only snooze a few times in the morning. But truly taking care of and valuing myself, I struggle with, big time. It’s sort of the combination of putting myself and my needs first – but at times, I don’t even know what those are. Like, putting off going shopping for new shoes because I don’t necessarily think I deserve them – things like that. I’ve never been one for having goals, or a ‘five-year plan’, because sometimes I can’t focus on myself that far out because I just need to get through the present as easily as I can.

So this brings me back to not liking my birthday. Having a day that is solely centered around me and answering questions like, “What do you want to do?”, “What do you want for presents?”, “Is there a restaurant you really want to try?” make me pause. Because for a long while, at least the last few years, I always defer to others. I wait and let someone else call the shots or make the decision because I don’t want to intrude or be too in the way with my own needs. And then a day just for me? Really? Are you sure?

I am still working on the bigger issue here – taking good care of myself in a way that’s meaningful and intentional – but a birthday seems to stick out in a way that disarms me. I also get my hopes up that I’ll be surprised by something, like a gesture or a gift from someone I care about, but often times I’m not. I’ve had some shitty birthdays and those disappointments in the past didn’t help me enjoy future birthdays, either. So I think, after this year’s birthday, I will start planning for something new to do. Maybe I’ll start a tradition that’s just for me and will be a way that I can celebrate in a way that feels special and true to working on myself. I don’t know yet if that will be a sort of stereotypical “treat yo’ self” day or just unplugging entirely – but hey, I’m welcome to suggestion at this point. One thing I do know is, don’t count on me writing “thanks for all the happy birthday wishes!” on Facebook. Maybe that will be the start of my new birthday tradition.

Katharine Donohoe : lives and works in Virginia. She (sometimes) has very little chill but enjoys the simple things like GChat, Trader Joe’s frozen snacks, and listening to a healthy amount of podcasts.