My birthday is on April 18th, which means it is rapidly approaching. Every year, as soon as we enter Aries season, my adrenaline skyrockets and I begin celebrating my birthday. To me, my birthday’s importance is only rivaled by Christmas. I love my birthday; ever since I was little I was always so excited by the month of April because it meant it was time to celebrate ME! This used to be incredibly cute when I was seven, but as I approach twenty it has gotten considerably less cute. But I wanted to give some insight into why my birthday is so important to me, why I get so excited every year, and why I put (too much) pressure to make it a good day.
When I was little, my birthday always fell near Eastern Orthodox Easter (even this year, it’s one week beforehand). Because of this, my family birthday party always coexisted with Easter; everyone would come over to my house to celebrate Easter, and then at dessert, there would also be a birthday cake for me (and when he would be there, a cake for me and my cousin who I share a birthday with). This infuriated me to no end. I was very young and I couldn’t understand why I had to share my birthday with another holiday. Looking back, I realize now how dumb and selfish it was to be so upset, but hey, I was like five.
Despite my complaints, I always had really good birthdays. I’d celebrate on Easter, I’d celebrate with both my cousin who shared a birthday with me and my cousin whose birthday is a week after, and I would celebrate on my actual birthday. On some years, I would also have a birthday party with my friends so I would be celebrating four different times for one birthday. I was truly living the life. But I got spoiled. I had developed the idea that my birthday was incredibly important, and that I was entitled to an amazing birthday every single year. This is what made my fourteenth birthday so abysmal.
Four days before I turned fourteen, my dad sat down my sister and me and told us that he would be moving out. I’ve discussed my parents’ divorce before on my Christmas post, and quite frankly I don’t think I will ever go into much detail about it on this blog. It’s still a raw and painful thing, even six years later, and I’m not quite ready to fully tell that story. The most important aspect of it to know for this anecdote is that the announcement of separation (and eventual divorce) was a complete shock to my sister, my mom, and me. None of us wanted this.
So, April 14th, 2013, my dad sits us all down and announces that he has bought an apartment in New York City and will be moving there by the end of the month. My father is a good man, but at the time he really had no idea how to handle upsetting news. Because of this, he tells us this news and immediately decides it’s time for us to go pick up my birthday gift for that year: a guitar. I have never played this guitar, and I still don’t know if it is because I associate it with a bad memory or because of pure laziness.
I remember the trip to Guitar Center being incredibly tense. I remember the next week being incredibly tense. Which means, I remember my birthday being incredibly tense. I remember during the day angrily playing the piano because no one would pay attention to me. My sister had homework, so my birthday dinner consisted of my mom, my dad, and me. I remember it being eerily quiet. My mom was trying to hold back tears and my dad was trying to pretend that everything was okay for my sake, but the feeling at that dinner table was very hostile. Suddenly, this day that had always been about me and a celebration of my life became a day of mourning for the family I was about to lose.
My birthday was a Thursday that year, my dad moved out the next Tuesday, and the next weekend was a family dinner to celebrate my birthday and my cousin’s birthday. That was even worse. My mom’s sister was mad at my dad, my dad’s sister was mad at my mom, my mom’s parents were sad, my dad’s father was sad, and all of the cousins were trying to make it a normal fourteenth and twenty-second birthday for my cousin and me. The day is honestly a blur, I just remember a lot of tears. Not exactly the jolly birthday celebration one wants.
So I’ve resolved since then to make every birthday better than my fourteenth. So far, I’ve succeeded; fourteen is still the worst birthday I’ve had, and I’m grateful another one hasn’t come around and beat it. I don’t think I would’ve been able to handle two horrible birthdays so close together. But now I am determined to make my birthday as fun and important as it was when I was little. I’ve worn tiaras on my birthday since then, I always have a fun outfit, and I always make sure to do at least one good thing with my friends. I don’t care about the presents or the cake (although ice cream cake is the best kind of cake let’s be real), I care about the memories. I want to be able to look back on my birthday as a good day, not a day where everyone was crying. Even if that good day just means me sitting on my bed watching The Lion King with my friends, that’s so much better than the alternative.
I know that it’s not healthy to place so much pressure on my birthday. After all, it’s just another day of the year. But memories like that shape a person, and I’ve found it cathartic to try and make each of my birthdays fun and positive. It’s almost as though if I can keep my birthday positive, I can make up for 2013.
And hey, I’m allowed to enjoy a day that’s all about me!
Make sure to follow me on Instagram and Twitter (@liz_zarb) where you’ll very likely see my celebrations for my twentieth birthday! Don’t forget to like the blog’s Facebook page to be updated whenever I post a new entry, and once again thanks for reading!