The lights are turned off and a cake is revealed as someone struggles to catch a flicker for the single candle extending from its center. “Happy Birthday” starts up and as social norms and courtesies dictate, I join in, right on cue. As I glance around the room surreptitiously, trying to figure out the recipient of the serenade so that I can say the correct name at the appropriate time, the realization finally dawns– they were singing to me. I had forgotten my own birthday.
Granted, it was still a few days out before the actual day, but it was then that I realized I no longer looked forward to my birthday the same way I did when I was younger. As a child, every time I received a new calendar, I would flip the pages to the eighth month and trace my finger along each week until I located the day of my birth. Then the silent countdown would begin. I could hardly contain my excitement when August finally arrived after seven long and torturous months. Sure, I daydreamed about the parties and presents, but most of all, I fantasized about turning a year older, the new responsibilities I would be gifted, the new privileges I would receive, and what it would all mean.
This year feels different – not in a good or bad way – just unlike any year prior. Maybe it’s the steady growing acknowledgement of the slow demise of childhood as I approached full-blown adulthood. Maybe all the big age milestones have been surpassed and everything seems kind of neutral from here on out.
Or maybe, life really isn’t quantified by number of years, but by experiences.
If that’s the case, then I am still a child, filled with wide-eyed wonder and excitement, just waiting to go on my next adventure. I no longer daydream about presents and parties, but about new people I will meet, new lands I will explore, new stories I will hear, and how that would bring meaning to my life.
And the countdown begins once again…