I love having my birthday in October. Not just because it’s Halloween time where I eat piles of candy corn, but it’s also during the school year. I get a bunch of “happy birthdays” from my friends and teachers. It makes me feel special.
I would go home after school to continue the celebration with my family. We would go out to dinner with everyone. When I say everyone, I mean everyone: aunts and uncles, cousins, the whole shebang. I was the center of attention for that day and I loved it.
Oh, and we can’t forget the best part: presents. I love opening gifts. It really doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. It can be a box with a piece of paper inside that says, “Happy Birthday, you’re the best” and I would love it. I’m not big on expensive gifts, I like the thought behind it.
My birthdays make me feel like I’m on top of the world. I realized that I took birthdays for granted during my freshman year in college.
It was the morning of my 19th birthday. I had just gotten off the phone with my mother. She was in the midst of a panic attack because I forgot to call her the night before to let her know I made it to my dorm room. She, obviously, assumed the worst as any concerned parent who’s watched Criminal Minds would.
It felt like any other day. I went to class. I took an exam that day (how exciting…) and I didn’t really have friends at this time. Still the beginning of the school year, many people hadn’t found their friend groups yet.
The happy birthdays were few and mostly from loved ones who texted me.
My hometown is Miami, Florida. During the school year, I live up at Boston College. No family lives near me. It felt weird, disorienting even. You grow up and the first 18 years of your life, your birthdays spent with loved ones. Then suddenly they’re not there anymore. All you have left are the few words that they send you on your birthday to let you know that they were thinking about you for that short time period.
I have never felt as homesick as I did for the first half of that day. The world was just going on as if nothing was going on.
I guess, in my mind, I thought the way this birthday played out was going to be the first of many. That each birthday would get worse and worse. I began to assume that this is what birthdays become for adults. Less attention on them as their lives get more hectic and the annual celebration is overshadowed by the obligations of life.
I hated it, I didn’t want to feel insignificant. I didn’t want to lose the one day that I felt unique.
If it wasn’t for my boyfriend, Luis, I would have felt even more unhappy. He pulled me out of my gloomy state. He got me the most wonderful gifts: a purse to feed my obsession with bags and a paper flower (I hate the smell of real flowers so these are the next best thing).
Luis even surprised me with reservations to one of the fanciest Italian restaurants (my favorite by far). It was so peaceful. We just walked around the North End of Boston after dinner, enjoying the cool, crisp fall air.
Luis made me feel special. It was different than when I was younger, but I will always cherish it because he gave me a little piece of home that day.
What I thought earlier was wrong. It’s not the events that made my birthdays special but rather the people I spent those days with that made them memorable. I focused on all the excitement of the activities when I should have appreciated my family and friends that took time out of their day to make me feel special.
My mindset was wrong. The older you get, the more important it becomes to spend birthdays with the people that you care about rather than focus on what you do with them.
Now that I live away from home, my mom started a new tradition. She sends me birthday messages and pictures every hour to two hours throughout my birthday. No matter where I am, when I feel the buzz of my phone in my pocket and I see that it’s her, it puts a smile on my face.
Not every loved one is thinking about me, but the most important ones are.