Today I “celebrate” the culmination of my 52nd journey around the sun. I feel like I should have something to say about almost 19,000 days of survival in what is often a hostile world, some profound reflection about being a 52 year-old fourth-year doctoral student, some words of wisdom about what it has meant to negotiate the curves life has thrown at me, but I’m afraid I don’t. I just checked the archives of this blog that is itself almost nine years-old and the last time I wrote a reflective “birthday post” was five years ago - for my 47th birthday. To say much has happened in these past five years would be a monumental understatement. Indeed, too much has happened. Yet I m still here, beat up and scarred but all that much stronger for it. Would I do it again? Probably not, but the question is moot.
I’ve been asked a few times if I have anything “special” planned for today. The answer is not only, "not this year," but, really, not ever. Of the December 6ths that I can remember, even when there was something “special” planned, it never really was. Part of that can be blamed on the time of the year, something I am sure many of those with December birthdays can relate to. Mine is early in the month, the holiday “season” doesn’t have a huge impact, but since many of those years (maybe most) have found me in school, the end of the fall semester comes right about the same time as my birthday. This year December 6th falls on a Saturday, but it is smack-dab in between the end of the semester and finals week. I have work to do - lots of it - and that, while no different than most other days, is special enough for me.
As I get older, other special dates have been added to my life, and as I get older still, some of those have faded back into the nothingness they were prior. Some of those anniversaries, to me, have far greater significance than that of my birth. I am not really sure why this particular day always leaves me so underwhelmed. Four years ago, a good friend threw me a surprise party for my 48th birthday (and it almost worked, I was surprised until just before I got there)... it was the first time anyone every threw me a surprise party. But even that, not through any lack of sincerity on his part or of those who attended, felt odd, uncomfortable and more than just a little weird. Two years ago, for the big 5-0, there was a profoundly unforgettable dinner celebration with friends that I’d give almost anything to forget. (That is a different story for a different day and one, I am quite sure, some wish I would not tell at all). Two days later my family came to celebrate, and that was nice, but any excuse to get the entire family together these days is nice - I was happy to provide one.
This morning I met some friends for breakfast. It was not a “birthday breakfast,” it’s just something we do from time to time. It just happened to fall on my birthday today and as such, in addition to in-person birthday greetings from those friends, one paid for my breakfast. That simple gesture may well be the highlight and the best gift I receive all day - and I mean that with complete sincerity. Because, as it turns out, it really is the simple things that mean the most; the relationships I have built in my life and especially in the last few years mean more to me than any compulsory birthday greeting or present ever could. While I appreciate those who took a moment out of their day to wish me a happy birthday, I am far more grateful for those who have been there every day.