Why I’ve started to dread my birthday

Diarmaid talks about the emotional rollercoaster many people go on around their birthdays

Written by Diarmaid Mc Caffrey


On your birthday you're entitled to a few things. You're allowed to become self-absorbed (It's MY day), treat yourself to a simple gift (in my case in the year 2002 it was a Mohawk and a Limp Bizkit CD, and no, I don’t want to talk about it) and more often than not get somewhat drunk and whine about getting older. I know that all of this might sound typical, but I’ve been to enough birthdays to know the steps to the dance. The birthday girl/boy makes a grand entrance and makes some tired comments about feeling old. Everyone laughs and sympathises because we maybe feel that way too.

As the night wears on and the booze flows, we generally start to reflect on the state of our life. Every problem or issue you’ve had over the last year is put under a mental microscope on your birthday, and you’ll start to feel terrible about mistakes you didn’t give a second thought about before the turning of the year. Like a torturous compulsion to assess every minute thing in your life for the last year.

If by some miracle you avoid that line of thinking then you’ll take it as a good omen for the future. If it’s terrible however, it can make you feel bad and make you question everything. Trust me, last month I turned the big 2-5 and for the rest of the day, it brought into question my life, my friends, my romantic life, and my terrifying future. My birthdays seems to me like life jumping you from behind and screaming “Have a happy day – but, what are you doing with your life?"

It didn’t use to be that way, of course. One of the pitfalls of growing up I never thought I would become this person. I never thought I would be the type of person who dreaded their birthdays. But now birthdays became something I just want to forget. To skip the entire day and pretend it’s not even an issue of the creeping dread of getting older.

It’s about the social pressures, from what's expected from today. Everyone is contacting you and wishing you THE BEST BIRTHDAY EVER. People expect you to go out and get nuts. “Come on; it’s your birthday! You have to go out!” Why are you obligated to do anything that isn’t sitting on the sofa watching TV? With every birthday there’s a genuine possibility of the slightest thing upsetting you. Even when it really shouldn’t.

If someone forgets to wish you a happy birthday, you’re going to have your feelings hurt and then you’re going to be irked with yourself because it doesn't matter. Someone you hold close doesn’t feel any less for you because you don’t hear from them on your special day.

The problem is, your birthday naturally turns you into an emotional rollercoaster who’s triggered by the smallest thing. “It’s my birthday, no big deal so what if I don’t hear from anyone. But wait, why hasn’t my friend messaged me?” or  “Half the day has gone, and uncle Joey hasn’t called. It’s a good thing I don’t care about today because I would be distraught if I did, I’m so pleased that I’m above to social pressures and don’t care about my age or my future or anything for that matter!” So very glad… “Oh hey, I got a voucher for Easons. That's nice”

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