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It's My Birthday and I'll Smile if I Want To

For nearly 30 years, I have made a big deal out of my birthday. I planned it out and implemented my parties. I went overboard with decorations, food, entertainment. And I played it off like I did it because I loved to celebrate my birthday.

Unfortunately, my desire to celebrate did not come from the joy of being alive, but rather a desire to prove to myself that I mattered. When I was a child, I had the idea that birthdays are the one day each year that people are supposed to be shown attention. Whether is was by having the class sing you Happy Birthday or people giving you gifts. Even having what you want for dinner. It was the one day out of the year that I was allowed to ask for attention without being shamed for it.

Historically, that wasn't even true. And even if I wasn't shamed for asking for attention from family, friends, or the world in general, it was rarely actually given. It became very common for my to be extra depressed around my birthday. Since about 14, I would cycle into suicidal tendencies leading up to my birthday. I hated it. My birthday, that it. Or more so that I was born at all. So to distract myself from hating the fact that I had to exist at all, I would celebrate it. I would make a big deal out of it. I would use it to cover up my pain.

Until 2020. January 2020 was the first year since I was a kid that I didn't celebrate my birthday. Because I had used my birthday as a yearly 'F*&% you depression, you didn't get me this year!" And that year it was about to pull me under. I was deleting my social media accounts, feeling lackluster about my work, skipping workouts, not eating, and in general, making my presence less apparent to all those around me because I was not planning to be of this world much longer. I spent most nights laying on my office floor crying, desperately trying to hold on to the will to live for my kids' sake. Luckily, COVID-19 saved me.

My go to coping mechanism of putting others first pulled me out of depression, or at least made me so tired I couldn't bother with it. I had to be there for the people who needed me and a lot of people needed me that year. Eventually, as you might imagine, sacrificing for others took it's toll as well and I had to make a change. By the time January 2021 came around, I was turning over a new leaf. I was back to celebrating and had a year to make up for. I went a little overboard that year and ended up disappointed again. There was more work to do.

Now, we are here, January 2022, and I have little desire to celebrate my birthday for the first time in my life. But not because I am trying to find my way out of life, but because I am enjoying it. I have not planned anything to force people to celebrate me, but now I have people in my life who want to show up for me. Who have asked, "What do you want to do for your birthday?" Friends, who notice when I'm not around, who check up on me. I feel secure in myself, in my purpose, in my ability. I'm happy, everyday. So to my past selves who don't quite understand what is happening right now, what has always been does not have to always be. I

t's my birthday and I'll smile if I want to.


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