Today is my birthday.
According to http://www.thisdayinmusic.com the #1 song on my day of birth was “I wanna know what love is” by Foreigner.
This year the theme for the day is “no muss, no fuss.” For the last four years I’ve partaken in some pretty wild festivities, so I’m a little relieved that this year’s agenda is defined by two words:
Tomorrow M and I are heading up to the cabin for a couple of days – we’ll run, read, rest and relax. (Probably catch some Superbowl action too.)
Two years ago, to celebrate the fact that I’d spent a quarter of a century alive and kicking on this big old ball of green and blue, M and I hosted a James Bond dress-up soirée. We instructed our guests to come costumed as their favourite bond villain, bond girl, or well, you know, bond bond, and then proceeded to get smashed on martinis (shaken, etc., etc.,) play poker and black-jack, and engage is some high-profile, high-hilarity espionage.
I think I ate more olives that night then I could have if I lived an entire year on the island of Crete. (And believe you me, that place is chock-a-block FULL of olives. I spend the majority of my time there marveling at how anyone could ever fathom picking them all – much to M’s equal parts amusement and chagrin.)
What was so great about the evening was how everyone really went whole hog when it came to their preparations for the night. We had many Bonds, a couple of Qs and one Rosa Klebb who completely stole the show.
I dressed as Vesper Lynd, while M decided on Gobinda, the evil henchman from Octopussy. (FULL DISCLOSURE: M is half-Indian so don’t start getting any crazy ideas here).
He looked so fabulous it was unreal. Plus he carried around a set of dice and kept pretending to crush them in his death grip – bloody hilarious and seriously flash. For more info please see:
The party took place just as I was beginning to buckle down and write my graduate thesis, and I told myself that after the night’s shenanigans were through, I wasn’t going to have any fun until after I rocked out on my defence, and finished my master’s.
It was a tremendous “last big bash” – a good lead in to three months of thirteen hour days in self-imposed isolation, spent hunched at my computer, writing about immigration policy and refugee integration schemes.
I’m happy to say that I was successful in both of the before mentioned endeavours, although in hindsight I am pretty sure that those months of suffering would have passed in a much less painful manner had I actually engaged in some light-hearted social fare every now and then.
But alas, as they say, live and learn.
Birthdays are a great opportunity to sit and (subjectively) contemplate where you are in life, where you’ve come from, and where you would like to go.
This week I’ve reflected quite a bit along these lines – trying to figure out the things I am happy with, the things I still have to work on, and the things I have overcome in the past year.
People keep asking me if I am alright, or if something is wrong, particularly when I tell them that this year I’m not interested in doing anything big for my birthday.
I’m guessing that this muted (and therefore I’m apt to guess out of character) demeanour of mine has led many to believe that I’m either down in the dumps (I get this quite a bit when I’m not my normally boisterous, extroverted self), or sweating over the fact somehow, despite my best efforts, I have managed to age yet another year.
This is not the case.
In fact, I’m having a hard time convincing people that I am downright a-okay. I’m just meditating on the past, and mulling over my future.
Which, at least to me, is a positive endeavor.
One thing I am working on is giving myself credit for the things that, well, deserve credit.
Seriously, it’s a chronic behavioural problem of mine. I am almost pathologically incapable of giving myself a pat on the back.
And although this problem used to be much worse than it currently is, the fact of the matter remains: I have tremendous difficulty truly taking pride in my triumphs, for fear that in doing so, I will come off as a big-headed, conceited jerk.
I’ve learned that the easier way to to combat this fright (and avoid that outcome) is to to ignore my successes, and instead immediately soldier on to my next goal, or activity, without so much as a second glance back.
I’ve been wondering about this quite a bit, and asking myself why I, like so many young people I know, are quick to downplay their accomplishments, almost to the point of parody?
Why do we squirm at the idea of complimenting ourselves, or accepting recognition from others?
Growing up I had a very real, very tangible belief that if I ever dwelled on that which I did well, people would right me off as self-righteous and self-involved. Being labelled “stuck-up” was second only to “slut” when it came to my biggest fears in terms of my (real or perceived) social identity (that second moniker is fodder for another topic, on another day.)
So I never took the time to congratulate myself, or accept the compliments of others (and if I did, it was always handled with a heavy dose of self-deprecation, or an attempt downplay what it was I had achieved), and I pushed to take on more activities, which in turn saw me place endless pressure on myself to excel– only to once again, ignore my successes.
This created an incredibly negative feed-back loop, defined by stress, insecurity, fear, and pressure. That my mental and physical health deteriorated because of this problem is an understatement – this warped, chronic need to over-achieve (but never acknowledge it) took over my life, manifesting itself in eating disorders, compulsive exercising, and long stretches of insomnia.
While I would like to say that I am completely over this affliction, I would be lying if I did. I can say however, that the place I am today, is almost completely unrecognizable from where I was ten years ago.
I am no longer sick, I am much less stressed out, and I am always working on putting less pressure on myself.
I am still committing myself to numerous engagements, because they make me happy, while at the same time trying to make sure that I can self-validate through this process.
I am learning how to say “good job”, and “thank-you” (with no self-deprecating follow-up).
So while this year, I may not be throwing a grand bash to celebrate my birth, rest assured that I am celebrating.
I’m just doing it a little quieter, that’s all.
And that is definitely a-okay.