Chiamaka takes a look at why a growing number of people these days choose not to celebrate or sometimes don't enjoy their birthdays.
One harmful thought process I nurtured for many years was not allowing myself to enjoy anything during my birthdays, even in the slightest. Every year, I would assess my existence on my birthdays, with my new age hanging over me like a hammer and I would compare myself in all ways possible. Look at where you’re at in life? Is this worth celebrating? I would ask myself a myriad of demoralizing questions, I would then go on to decide that I had somehow failed some arbitrary exam of life and conclude that I was unworthy of enjoying or participating in usual birthday rites. Coupled with my personal issues surrounding birthdays, I had my family’s to deal with. Neither my mum nor dad celebrated their birthdays. In fact, my dad often joked about how he was not sure about his date of birth as he was born during a civil war. My mother, while sure of her birth date, has never been in support of elaborate occasions, she regarded such things as a waste of money or time that could be spent working.
The only person who might have cared, even a little bit, was my sister. As she’s only two years older than I am, there was really no way for her to make that day special for me (as children) besides birthday wishes. Due to the lack of cheerfulness and celebration around my birthday from both my parents and I, I grew up believing that there was no need to make a huge deal out of it and this in effect also allowed people in my life to become uncaring about my birthday. This affected my relationship with my birthday for so many years.
It's almost like constant self-hypnosis. You haven't achieved what you ought to have, you aren't doing well enough, what cause do you have to celebrate? These questions play on your mind endlessly, causing you to almost dread your birthday. And this sometimes translates to how your friends or loved ones interact with that day as well. It's just another regular day, no need to make a fuss about it. Almost like New Year, it is just another flip of the calendar. It then becomes a pit you can't seem to crawl out of.
A good number of people who are apathetic towards their birthday or generally refuse to be cheerful on that day tend to face a similar plight. Having detested their birthday for so long, they fear that showing vulnerability and actually showing a liking to their date of birth would make them seem weak for a lack of a better word. “Everybody has gone on ignoring the day, so why begin to change things now?” is a common thought process. While this may not apply to everyone, it is a widely spread belief that if you have never had a big birthday, your desire for it should reduce as you grow older. However, I, on the other hand, having had to unlearn some of the harmful thoughts I’ve nurtured over the years, now believe that your birthdays should get more enjoyable as you get older and have more control over the activities that occur that day.
What I used to do to myself, obsessive comparison during my birthdays that is, is a product of the depressive thoughts that I have always had. Depressive thoughts which sometimes snowball into depression also tend to rob people of enjoying their birthdays. Mental illness, in general, is obviously a huge stumbling block and it often makes no day capable of being enjoyed, including days that should be celebrated.
Depression almost kept me from enjoying my graduation because for the most part, while schooling, I felt like I was a failure for not doing a major that was acceptable enough, at least to my African parents. I felt inadequate, like I wasn’t doing enough, like I wasn’t enough. Thankfully, I feel so much different now. Thinking back, I’m glad I was able to study a course that I actually enjoyed. It has made me a much more balanced individual. Rather than resenting my parents or the people around me, I chose to make myself happy.
I’ve grown a lot over the years and this has helped me adopt a mcuh healthier relationship with my birthday now. I choose to enjoy my new age and this has also compelled the people around me to bask in my joy. They’re super supportive, doing everything they can to make me happy. My friends are rock solid and take the job of making me happy seriously, on my birthday and otherwise. Celebrating your birthday is obviously never a do or die affair, it would always remain preferential, but what is important to note is that more often than not, people who choose not to celebrate this special day grapple with unhealthy habits that get in their way or deal with immense mental struggles like I used to. Be easier on yourself, life is tough already. Celebrate yourself as much as you can, it can never hurt to.