I find there are very different attitudes when it comes to the celebration of birthdays. There are people who are only averagely concerned about such days and don’t mind commemorating their own provided it requires minimum effort (just wheel them to the pub and skip the song part) – these people also tend to see other peoples turning of age as more of an excuse to see their mates and probably force each other to down pints of absinth. There are some who will do anything to avoid any acknowledgement of their own birthday, do not share the date on Facebook and do not notify their work friends. In fact I am sure one or two of them have gone so far as to shred their own birth certificate and convince their mother they were NOT born on this day. 365 days of the year. Mothers who, minus the evidence and perhaps a bit senile, might believe them. And then you get people like me….
I have always been the definition of a ‘Birthday Person’. Except for maybe once when I was six and ‘hid’ under the kitchen table crying (in a very obvious way) when everyone sang happy birthday to me. I love gathering all the people together once a year, squeezing the most fun possible out of the day/night/week and, yes; I do thrive on being the centre of EVERYONE'S attention for a little bit. I’m a loving person and I love to be loved in return. As I always say, love is a verb (apparently real life reverends say this too) and my birthday is when everyone can just DO their Hannah Love.
However, my Birthday Love isn’t a selfish love. My Birthday Love – love of all things birthday – is utilitarian. I want everyone to always have the best birthday possible all the time always. The more I like you, the better birthday I want you to have. As a result, not only do I spend a few weeks per annum planning my own celebrations, my whole year is in fact land-marked by the special days and nights of the people close to me and any time in between is basically either a build up to or come down from those exceptional occasions.
I treat each birthday like a small wedding (minus the vows) and in the lead up to someone’s personal anniversary I will be a girl on a mission, armed with glitter and some weighing scales (for the cakes, not to point out if the birthday girl has gotten chubby this year). In the month of June, approximately 50% of my nearest and dearest renew their birthday vows, so it’s all I can usually do not to quit my job in favour of icing sponges. The first week of July is a recovery period during which I reflect on how much rose wine and cake I might have consumed (takes all of 10 seconds to deduce: LOADS.)
This weekend celebrated the birthday of my housemate Miss Charlotte, who was turning 23 and looked incredible doing it. I was so excited for it and for her, I was up with the birds and spent most of the day itself perfecting her (made to order “I want FIVE layers! FIVE!”) monstrosity of a cake, most of my previous night creating a beast of a card and I had bubbles in my tummy for about 3 days previously, like you do before an interview or after an amazing piece of news. As much as I love my housemate, the fact I was quite so excited for her birthday made me have a curious think about Birthday People. I’m not the only person like me, there are loads of us out there and I want to know why birthdays mean so much to us?
This is what I decided.
Yes birthdays are about presents and cakes and looking pretty and wine, but materialistic things aren’t what drive me in life, so I know my birthday love runs far deeper than the wearing of a new party dress. For me birthdays have always been a reflective time – you look back at your year, you clearly see your own progress in a way that you might not get the time to realise on all the other average days that constitute your life. On the other hand, you might find yourself alone with only a house mouse to celebrate with, and you might realise something needs to change.
On my 24th birthday I wasn’t so much alone with a house mouse, but the way I spent my birthday made me consider the slightly wrong direction my life was taking. I found myself in the wrong house, with the wrong people, feeling wrong. It took the significance of that day for me to look at my life and understand what needed changing and who needed to change it. And quite quickly, I did. By my 25th birthday I was in a much happier environment, surrounded by all my favourites, feeling confident and having a brilliant time. Realising that on that day, made my efforts and hard work from the preceding 12 months more than worth it, and spurred me on to continue upwards.
I also feel like birthdays are the party at the end of a project - your own personal year long project, in which you have hopefully built your life up, gained more, learnt more and become better, in whatever way that may be. Life is a constant and never ending process of progression and regression. We all want to feel like we are working towards the former and sometimes we need a nudge to remind us not slack off or get distracted by other smaller projects like work or money or solving un-peace. Birthdays are that reminder.
Your birthday is one of the few times in a year when you can mentally off that treadmill and actually enjoy and appreciate what it is you live and work for. Whether that is a family or a fast car or an extensive walk-in wardrobe – on that day you can love it, drive it, wear it. It’s not often we can fully spoil ourselves or allow ourselves to be spoiled. On your birthday you can give yourself whatever you want and take the time to appreciate what others give you. You can do and eat and say whatever you feel like – it’s just socially accepted that if it’s your birthday, the world is yours for that day. We all work hard enough, in different ways, that we deserve for the world to belong to us sometimes.
For me, as much as birthdays are about the fun and the wrapping paper and the cake for breakfast, lunch and tea, they are more about the feeling you keep with you all day long. If you’re lucky it will be a feeling of satisfaction and appreciation for what you have, and if not, then a feeling that it’s time for something new and a fresh start can begin tomorrow. That is why I love them so much and do my utmost to bring other people as much happiness as I can on their own special day – to be a part of anyone’s milestone is a pretty awesome thing.
I have a few of my best friend’s birthdays coming up over the next few months and already I know it will be an amazing time. I am excited already about what cakes I will make, which dresses shall be bought and how best to show my friends that they are incredible, and deserve to shine. Their dress may dirty, the wine spills, the balloons burst and the cake may turn to love handles, but what remains of a birthday as the people leave and the music fades, is a strong sense of who you are, who you are becoming and if you want to be in the same place in 365 days time.