A Reflection on Birthdays

A year older or a year wiser?
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A year older or a year wiser?
Birthday Cake

Photo Credit: ELLE

As a child, I loved birthdays and I celebrated them with parties full of cake, flouncy dresses, friends and tiaras. Looking back, they represented a magical time in my childhood, one where I was either smiling or eating — two of my favorite things to do!

By the time you read this, I will have successfully aged another year, and am now closer to my 20s than ever before. Your birthday definitely feels a lot different as you get older — case in point that I don’t even realize how close I am to my birthday anymore. In my yesteryears, I would eagerly count down each day in November with impatience, waiting to wake up on that fruitful day and know that it was going to be full of celebration. Now, with final papers due and midterms coming up, I barely even realize that my birthday is days away.

I’m happy to say that I’ve had many new experiences and met a lot of cool people since my last birthday. However, I’ve recently been feeling down about the whole college experience. To be honest, upon entering university, I had a distinct picture of how it was all going to turn out: an amazing group of close friends, parties and boys. (I blame The Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants.) Recently, my life at school hasn’t been going in that direction. Going to a school that is primarily full of commuters, I don’t have as many close friends as I thought I would have by now and I recently found out that a summer abroad course I was looking forward to taking is not being offered this year. It's been a difficult few months.

The effect of all of these shortcomings became blindingly apparent with the approach of my birthday. I realized how significantly things change as you grow older, and that your birthday is no longer a day when you are safe from bad things happening. For a while, I thought it meant that there was no magic in life as an adult. However, I recently realized that that was not true, either.

As we grow up, we can enter phases of life where we are distinctly unhappy, even depressed. For some of us, these phases can either come earlier or much later. No matter when it comes, it is important to understand that everything is temporary. Your life will never be an infinite string of unfortunate events nor a string of happy ones. Sometimes, things don’t go the way you plan and even though it makes you angry, it is important to not internalize that anger. Your life will change soon enough, and you might have to ride out this period in your life the best way you can, even if it means inventing your own magic.

That’s why for my birthday this year, even though I’m not where I thought I would be by now, I refuse to torture myself. I’m not having the party that 8-year-old Rebecca would have enjoyed, but I am still creating a day in which I’m doing things I love — I will be feasting on a Momofuku Milk Bar birthday cake (I cannot express into words of my level of excitement) and champagne while watching all my favorite movies and shows throughout the day and spending time with my family.

Sometimes, a milestone like your birthday might make you think that the universe is working against you, if your life isn't how you imagined it would be by now. Let yourself know that magic and feelings of goodness are not far away, even if you have to create them yourself with impromptu dance parties or that piece of chocolate cake in your local coffee shop. There’s magic everywhere you look, and you don’t have to wait for your birthday to realize it.

How do you find the magic in getting older?

Are birthdays as fun as they used to be for you? How do you combat the birthday blues? (Tell me I'm not the only one who has them!) Let me know in the comments.