on the other side of twenty-five

When I was a kid, I loved my birthday. Realistically I liked any opportunity to throw a really weird and specific party (do you know any other kids who had about 6 murder mystery parties under their belt by age 16?). Back then my birthday parties often included some kind of cake that wasn't really a cake (see donut cake below!!!), a piñata that I would slave over with my paper mâché and bits of crepe paper and typically a dip in my neighbours pool who were literal saints when it came to my enthusiasm for swimming. Pretty sure I would show up at their front door in a swimsuit and towel in the summers proclaiming how hot it was outside! I was a lot of things as a kid and subtle wasn't one of them.

As I got older, a little more shy and less fond of being at the centre of attention, birthday parties became a little less interesting to me and evolved into someone throwing me a surprise party because I wouldn't make plans or rounding up my friends for dinner or drinks at the very last minute. To be honest every birthday post-21 arrived with a bit of disdain on my part - every year I was merited with a new age that really didn't fit how I felt inside. I don't feel old enough to be 24, 25, and now, 26. It didn't feel like something to be celebrated any longer. We all age - we all have birthdays - must we drag our friends and family through this ritual which makes people feel strangely obligated to spend money and time on what is a sort of incidental day? Realistically we should be showering our mothers in gifts on this day, for having to birth us and all. It just didn't feel like it was worth the fanfare, regardless of the fact that I seemed programmed to feel shortchanged when my birthday's passed with anything but. 

Something I always hated when I was a kid is when children were mocked for "thinking they were immortal". At the time I thought I was an exception but sitting here some ten or twenty years later it's obvious that I too was, and probably still am to some degree, blissfully unaware of the realities of being alive. When you grow older and you're given full responsibility for your own life, you start to fully see and admit to yourself how easily the world hands out card after card of bad news when it feels least deserved. For me, being an adult is a constant back and forth between being so lucidly aware of how horrifying everything is, and covering myself up with a protective blanket of my ignorance so that I can have love, and experiences and commodities and the feeling that life is beautiful without opposing evidence dulling this concept. But when you see loss, when a friend doesn't make it past 21 years of his life, when your friends experience tragedy, when you watch someone die in front of your eyes - that kind of pain focuses you to "what is important in life" whatever that is to you. But this world does not often accommodate both kinds of thinking at once. We have bills to pay and things to buy and we have our worries. It is hard to think both big and small. But sometimes I still try.

So on this, my 26th birthday, though my instinct is to ignore the fact I'm growing older and to pretend to be twenty-something forever, I'm going to celebrate it. This doesn't mean a cake or a party or a large bottle of champagne, it just means that I'm choosing to let this day have meaning. That I'm choosing to say thank you for having lived these past 26 years relatively trouble-free and with my health mostly in tact, to say thank you for still having my family, and for having incredible friends. For living somewhere where for the most part I am safe. For having the money I need to live and for the people that have and continue to make compromises so that I am in a situation where I can do what I love. I am grateful to have made it 26 years and wow, I really hope for more, knowing full well that I may not get as many as I want. But I will be glad for every year I get, and hopefully one day I will have the privilege to be old and grey. I will be proud of every wrinkle.

Emily Diana Ruth5 Comments