Birthdays come every year. They are inevitable like trips around the sun and years passing by.
At a very young age many people in the United States of America are conditioned to view birthdays as special days. We celebrate birthdays similarly to Christmas, except it is far more individualistic.
Showering gifts and additional attention on our loved ones for “their” day is the standard. I’m guessing it’s much the same in most of the other wealthier countries of the world.
Our individual birthdays are special. In the sense that of the 365-366 possible days of the year, we could only be born on just one of them. And, of course, that one day is “ours.”
On the other hand, the grand scale of more than 7.7 billion people on Earth means each person shares their day of birth with almost twenty-two million other people—statistically speaking.
Maybe our birthdays really aren’t that special after all?
It’s easy understand why we succumb to this common ongoing social programming. We want to spoil our young ones and each other.
Having a sense of exceptionalism at a young age teaches us to strive to achieve more. It creates the confidence necessary to excel. It can also lead to an over-inflated sense of self and pride.
I have been guilty of perpetuating brazen attempts celebrating of myself through past birthdays. Plans were made selfishly and without consideration of others who are making honest efforts to share in the celebration of “my” day. Lengthy lists of material items I’ve desired to be bought for me were created and distributed.
I’ve even gone as far to claim that my birthday lasts for an entire month, instead of just a day. Of course, this was in jest, but there is always a bit of truth in kidding.
Ironically, none of it ever made me any happier. It did not achieve the fulfillment my self-centered actions attempted to create.
This year I am trying something different.
I am creating a birthday centered around selflessness. I am not asking for things or for attention. Instead I am looking for time with the people in my life I care about. Additionally, I am seeking opportunities for service.
What else in my life brings me more joy? What else could I possibly receive as a wrapped gift that will create more satisfaction? The birthday present I am aiming to give myself is a whole new experience of a birthday.
I cannot possibly communicate how much I appreciate the love and consideration that so many people have and will show in regards to my birthday today. These are such wonderful examples of my many blessings, for which I am so grateful.
However, the things I truly desire cannot be bought or wrapped. They cannot be handed to me or posted on my social networking timelines.
I volunteered with kids this morning. The sense of giving back to the community, as well as the love and appreciation I received from the children and the staff was better than any gift certificate to my favorite restaurant or coffee shop.
Spending an hour with my wife, talking and being present, was better than any book, movie, or video game I could have requested on a birthday list.
As of writing this Moving On Minute I am about halfway through my birth day. I can already state, with concrete certainty, that I am having a higher quality birthday than I can remember. It’s amazing what a little change in perspective can accomplish.
Tonight my daughter will put some candles in a delicious leftover peach pie. She and my wife will turn down the lights in our dining room. Then they will sing happy birthday to me. My daughter will end the birthday song with some malarkey the kids at her school came up with about rotten chicken.
As I always do when I hear this Happy Birthday extension about some bad poultry, I will tell her that nobody wants rotten chicken for their birthday. Also as always, she’ll argue that she does. I’ll respond by telling her that that is what I will get her for her birthday. We’ll go back and forth for a bit, and then have a laugh and hug it out.
The elation I will feel will punctuate the day in a way I cannot describe with words. It will have been the best birthday ever!
So from now on, when my birthday comes back around like the snarky boomerang of old age that it is, I will pretend I don’t see it. No longer will I pretend to elevate myself above everyone else just because I happened to be born on April fifth.
As usual, it all comes down to me. Whenever I step outside of myself I gain more than I ever expected or hoped for.
All that needed to be done was to stop putting my birthday on a pedestal. I stopped expecting, wanting, and comparing. I ceased all of the other negative outputs of energy that are so easily intertwined with the common, modern, first-world birthday.
Even though I’m not special, and my birthday is only as special as the other 21,388,888 birthdays that are also happening today throughout the world, I made today special. All it took was not being as self-centered.