Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What are birthdays for anyway?



Does my title sound so bitter? Heh... I hope not. I was just caught by this moment of reflection. I guess what has really brought me in to this is the clinging sentimentalism and romanticism passed on by our parents, grandparents, great grandparents and so on. You see, my mom had always taken me to a studio for my birthday picture since I was one year old. It lasted until I was seven. I used to have a children's party with my cousins and friends in the neighborhood. My birthday would not be complete without the blowing of candles on my birthday cake and receiving gifts from relatives. Well, those were the birthdays I had until I was seven years old.

Since then, I lost most of my birthday memories. I can't remember when was the year when I had dinner with my family in a Chinese restaurant, or when I just had a lot of drinks with friends. I can't even remember how I celebrated it last year, or did I?

But, there was one birthday that I couldn't forget. It was in the year 2000 when I celebrated it away from home, not even with my closest friends, but with the people I started to live with in some remote area in the island. That was when I chose to spend a few months with the peasants. They were good people. I lived with them, ate with them and even took a bath with them beside the flowing cold spring in the village. They slaughtered their native chicken for me, offered a lot of yellow bananas from their farm, and cooked the maja blanca with the ingredients sent by my parents from the city.

I just turned 17 years old at that time. That's the only birthday that remains so vivid in my memory. A celebration which had given me so much meaning to my existence and defined me as a wonderful human being.

In the next hour, I'll be officially 26 years old. I've been thinking that birthdays are just for kids. When you're still a kid, you always look forward to your birthdays because you wanted to be a big girl or boy so soon like your older siblings. When you're still a kid, you wanted to grow old sooner than a year so you could do things on your own, without asking permission from mom or asking money from dad.

But when you started to age like 25 or 26 (like me), you started to deliberately forget about your birthday. You wanted to stop aging and be like or look like a child again. When a new acquaintance asked me about my age, I asked them back what they think. Most of them said, I look like 19, 20, someone even said 16. I know most of them have similar answers because I have this conscious effort to look younger by staying cheerful and youthful.

I'm evasive in a way to tenaciously deny my true age. Unconsciously (of which now I'm conscious about), I deny this growing old because I don't think I have grown up. By coming out young, feeling young, I create my elusive world of less responsibilities. It's not that I hate responsibilities or that I don't want to be responsible enough. I just don't think I'm able to fight procrastination to move on and face the challenges of growing up or being mature in that sense.

I think that's the story behind all this "bitterness" on birthday. That's how I started to be practical and non-sentimental about it. I don't even celebrate it anymore nor ask for something special to happen to make it memorable just like owning a balloon that my parents bought from church after lighting some candles for a prayer.

It just dawned on me that I should still give this birthday some sentimental value especially that I've already passed a quarter of a hundred lifetime (or that I have 4 or 5 years left to complete the numbers in the calendar). I feel like shaking and chiding to myself: "Hey, don't you get it? You're already 26! Grow up! Make a life! Make a person out of yourself!"

I'd like to have a toast for that tomorrow! Happy Birthday to me!