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“No, really, folks: enough with the ‘happy birthday’ messages. Just stop.”

May 30, 2015, 11:50 PM

Well, there you go: my 34th birthday officially sucked.  I think a few things led to it being a pretty crummy day.  I knew a few weeks ago that I would have the day off on my birthday and wanted to do something for it.  I didn’t tell anyone about the day off because I just wanted to do something for myself, by myself, and didn’t want anyone trying to make any requests for my time.  I was tossing around the idea of going to either Ocean City or Rehoboth Beach today, but really wasn’t all that excited about either one.  Then I woke up today, and went online to do a little more research and some more figuring out of what I wanted to do, and I had a different idea that sounded a lot more appealing than going to the beach: New York City.

That was something that I was excited about.  I have never really been to New York City.  I’ve only passed through New York City on the way to and from other places.  I went through by car in 2010 when I went to Boston, and I went through by train in 2011 when I went to New Hampshire.  But since I never exited a vehicle on those occasions, those don’t count as visiting New York.  The way I figured, it would take about four hours to drive up.  I would park at a PATH station (probably Journal Square), take PATH to World Trade Center, and then explore for a few hours before heading back home.  I actually left to go on this trip, and then by the time I got to the end of the street, I realized that it was probably a bad idea.  After all, this was a single day off.  I had to go to work the next day, and didn’t want to be all groggy from a big trip, or worse, oversleep and be late for work.  I quickly came to the realization that I couldn’t go anywhere today, and that just shot my day.  I ended up going to the shopping center up the road from me, bought a new pair of shoes for work, and then went back home.  Total distance traveled: 1.5 miles.

Sometimes I hate being an adult with adult responsibilities.  I wanted to go out and have fun.

So for that, I was annoyed, since I couldn’t go anywhere, and ended up sitting around the house all day feeling miserable.  And then I kept getting all of these annoying birthday wishes from people on Facebook.  I have spoken about my birthday on a number of different occasions in this space, and it should be clear if you have read this website that I am not exactly enthused by my birthday.  I don’t view it as a cause for celebration in and of itself.  I didn’t do anything worth celebrating on that day.  After all, this wasn’t any sort of achievement on my part, since I didn’t exactly choose to be born.  That was entirely outside of my control.  And I don’t like all of the attention that comes with the day, since the day just isn’t very special to me.  It feels undeserved, and the sentiment comes off as somewhat hollow.  Likewise, I hate getting birthday cards.  Save your money, because if I even open them in the first place (and yes, I have in the past thrown birthday cards away unopened), they don’t make me feel good.  Save your money and the cheap sentiment.

And with the day basically ruined due to my inability to go anywhere, all of the birthday messages on Facebook just compounded my bad mood.  I ignored four phone calls from my mother today, because I didn’t want to talk.  I sent a little Emoji happy face to both parents for their texted birthday wishes, as that little way of saying, “Yes, I am acknowledging this message, but don’t want to actually have a conversation about it.”  Then my sister changed her Facebook profile picture to one with me in it (which I did not appreciate), and I got notified of all of the likes on that.  And I got countless wall posts containing hollow “Happy birthday!” greetings, some from people from whom I only hear once per year.  I deliberately have my birthday set to not display on Facebook to cut down on those kinds of annoying messages, and yet they still come.

Then after receiving one birthday message too many, I finally decided that I’d had enough.  I disabled wall posts on my Facebook, and made this post at 3:07 PM:

“No, really, folks: enough with the ‘happy birthday’ messages. Just stop.”

Then I went so far as to delete every single birthday-related post that people had made on my wall.  Those messages did not make me happy, and so those messages needed to die.  Then I closed the tab I keep open for Facebook, and set my phone to auto-ignore all incoming phone calls, essentially pushing everyone away.  I’m sorry, but if all I’m going to hear from you are unwanted birthday greetings, then I’m pushing you away.  I don’t like being thrown into the spotlight against my will.  I said in 2010, “If I want to celebrate in my own way, or choose not to celebrate at all, that’s my prerogative.  […]  And if celebration in my honor is forced on me against my will, I will make sure to spoil it.”  And at that, I believe that I was successful.

Please understand that if a celebration is being done in my honor, it will be on my terms, and done in a way that has meaning to me.  And whether you like it or not, I have complete veto power over it by my participation or non-participation.  Recall that I skipped my college graduation because I felt that I had no control over the whole charade.  College had very little meaning to me, and I did it because I was always expected to do it, for no other reason than to have a degree under my belt.  I didn’t know what I wanted to do after college, and it wasn’t until ten years after graduating college that I really figured out what I wanted to do with my career.  So that celebration would have been quite hollow for me, and I would have been miserable the whole time.  Note that I don’t participate in celebrations in my honor for the joy of other people.  I do them for myself.  Everyone else’s enjoyment is a bonus.

It’s also kind of interesting that the title of the Journal entry right before this one is a line from a song from the Today’s Special episode “Birthdays”.  In that episode, Jeff is kind of bummed that, being a mannequin, he doesn’t have a birthday, and therefore can’t celebrate like other people can.  The others ended up just giving Jeff a birthday, and that made everything all better.  I honestly sometimes wish I didn’t have a birthday.  Don’t get me wrong, now, I’m not saying that I wished that I was never born or something like that, but every year, I want my birthday to just pass without note.  If it tells you anything, I assign far more meaning to March 23, which is the website’s anniversary date, than I do to May 30, my own birthday.  After all, that date celebrates something that I actually did, and thus means far more to me.

Honestly, the best kinds of birthday celebrations are ones where the fact that it’s my birthday is the excuse to get together with a few people, and then it just becomes something normal like we would also do when it’s not anyone’s birthday.  2013 was like that, where I got together with a friend, we went to dinner, and just generally had a good time.  We might have done this on any other day, but it worked out.  The intent of going on a trip today would have been similar.  It was a free day, so it was supposed to have been an opportunity to do a trip that I’d otherwise have done on one of my regular off-days but never got around to doing.  The fact that it was my birthday just meant I had the day off.  The rest would have just been a fun day exploring a new city.

In any case, all of this unwanted attention every year just fills me with dread whenever my birthday rolls around.  I find all of the unsolicited and unwanted attention in the name of birthday wishes to be unpleasant, and honestly feels more hurtful than uplifting, even though I acknowledge that the intent is anything but that.  Still, I shouldn’t have to go through this ordeal every year.  My birthday has turned into a monster that I have no control over, attacking me.  It’s not fun.  It makes me resent having a birthday, and it also makes me feel guilty because I acknowledge that some of those birthday greetings are genuine, but they don’t enter and get interpreted with the feeling that the sender intended.

Basically, if you want to celebrate my birthday with me in a way that I would appreciate, just follow my lead.  If I invite you to celebrate with me, then that’s great.  Let’s all be merry together.  And if I choose not to celebrate it, respect that, and let it pass.

Categories: Birthdays