It was February 24th. I awoke to the same excitement and wonder I had felt as a child. It was my birthday! And my birthday is a day when the focus is on me! It’s a time to celebrate the fact that I am here living this life. And celebrate I would! My perfect day was planned in advance.
Most people I know don’t feel the same way about birthdays as I do because they stay focused on their age. They are often full of dread regarding an approaching birthday because they see themselves as getting older and older. That may be true, but I see it differently. We are steadily aging, so if aging is the problem, then shouldn’t every day be dreaded? That is a challenging way to live.
Aging is something we have little control over. Everyone has the option of staying healthy and strong, but we all still age. There’s no stopping it. I tend to let go of things I have no control over and focus on what I do have control over. I have complete control over how I feel and how I think. And so do you. Dreading anything is a low-level emotion that causes stress. And stress weakens the immune system and increases the signs of aging. Do you really want that?
For me, birthdays are a celebration of birth, not age. It’s a recognition of the day you arrived. It’s not about age at all. If it were, we would call them, “age days.” But we don’t. We call them birthdays! Often, when I share my philosophy with people, I can see it is thought-provoking. I watch their eyes open up as their head tilts in contemplation. They’ve never really thought about it this way.
When did we start putting the focus on age? I suppose many parents got excited as their children grew and made a big deal over birthdays with a complete focus on age. And then, as teenagers, we couldn’t wait to enter our twenties, to be adults and acquire freedom. The clear focus on age seemed less problematic when hitting a milestone earned you new freedoms. But after hitting all those exciting milestones, many want to stop the clock. But for me, despite the challenges I faced, my thirties were some of the best years of my life! So why stop there? I expect more and more beautiful experiences as I go through life.
I received an e-mail from a colleague on my special day. Since we were working on a project, I stopped to send a quick reply stating that I would be taking the day off because it was my birthday. He replied with best wishes and a question – “Forever 29?” Just reading it gave me an uncomfortable feeling. Why do some people want to stay 29?
I took some time the following day to consider where these negative emotions were coming from. When I looked back at my life, I realized that when I was 29 years old, I was leaving an abusive marriage. And, little did I know at the time, I was about to face almost a decade of chronic health issues due to the unmanaged stress in my life. I am so much smarter, wiser, healthier, and emotionally stable today then I was at the age of 29. I wouldn’t trade that for anything!
At the end of the day, it’s all about perspective. For me, birthdays are a celebration of my birth. For you, they might be about age. I say, celebrate every day! But when that birthday comes around, take time to celebrate you! The magnificence of you who was born on an extraordinary day – your birthday!
No wise man ever wished to be younger.
— Jonathan Swift