Birthday isn’t a special day for me; it is always so similar to other days that I don’t find the need to celebrate, receive wishes, presents, or do something to reward myself. So, I decide to do nothing different from my usual routine. I will still have a busy day like many others, going to teach, finishing work, and talking with friends.
But, I like the idea of birthday. It is one of those days when you feel like you are thought of by other people, or even missed. You feel somehow a little more important, even though it is fleeting. If I were more connected with my Mother, I would tell her that I think my birthday is my Mother’s day. That, my birthday is not my day, but hers, because she had to go through so much pain to give birth to me this day 21 years ago. I want to tell her how thankful I am, and how I appreciate all of the things that she has done for me, how I am so sorry that I couldn’t be more open about myself with her (yet), and how I think of her a lot, care for her, and cry so much because of her.
My family always remembers my birthday, without being reminded. My grandparents, my uncle sent me wishes from last weeks. This is the time when I feel guilty most, because I don’t think that I have ever been aware of everyone’s birthday in my family. I have been away from home for four years. But that shouldn’t be an excuse. I have written down a note, forcing myself to ask my parents the dates of birth of my relatives. If it is not action, it is not love.
I remember my birthday last year. I was in Hanoi, Vietnam. In the morning, I went to get breakfast with an American in Hanoi. I knew her through the WordPress community and contacted her because I was in love with her wonderful writing. We got Pho, talked about Hanoi, life, and a year later, we reunited in New York. We just got coffee two weeks ago. In the afternoon, I took my bike to the street and rode around West Lake by myself. It was a long ride and I got lost half way, but I am glad that I did it. Then I came home to find everyone preparing for my birthday. My grandmother and aunts were all there, cooking for my birthday. I got gifts from my cousins. How lucky I was. Family love is something so precious that I always feel like I don’t do enough to deserve it.
Then in the evening, my close friend from high school surprisingly came by after her busy day, bringing me four little cakes that she bought. We then rode around West lake at night on her motorbike, talked and shared about our life. I told her how I secretly felt uncomfortable, because three close friends had forgotten about my birthday. There was not even a wish from them, and that hurt me somehow, because being away from each other had changed our relationships so drastically. I felt adulthood. I felt strange. Strange in a sad way.
I feel very unexcited about birthdays, becoming older, and adulthood. While I have more freedom to do what I want, I also feel less free about my emotional thoughts. I am lucky enough to go to college, study the fields that I am most interested in, look for the internships that I want to do, pursue my dreams and interests. I am thrilled because of the amount of autonomy that I have with my life. But at the same time, I also put restriction on my emotions and feelings. After years of loving people intensely and passionately, I don’t allow myself to love anyone too much without feeling safe. Because of the easy excuse of busy life, I think less of other people, for other people. I love with distance, love less, love shallowly. I love by sending a text rather than calling, by asking how someone is, rather doing any concrete actions to help him/ her, by wishing someone a happy birthday on Facebook, rather than making a gift with hand-written notes, by reaching for more idealistic things (like fundraising for UNICEF), rather than nurturing my little cousins’ young minds. But then, whenever I feel guilty of all of these, I look around, and my friends are doing the same. Only is my family loving in a way that is very different, more powerful, than the way that I love them.
But, I am not ranting. I am talking about all of these with hope that I still have the authority to change the situation. I still have my family to love more everyday, have my friends to reach out to, and my life to live — with love and passion. Hope, so that next year, when I turn 22, I will celebrate it with full joy and peace. Let’s make it a goal!