I believe in the concept of celebrations; I just believe we have better reasons than the random calendar dates we have marked to do so. We should celebrate what people do, not, for example, the day they showed up on earth. Everybody does that.
Today is a (baseball) family member’s birthday. He may have a party, a piece of cake, wear a birthday hat, whatever. Folks will reach out to him and shower him with warm wishes, maybe buy him presents…all because he was born and hasn’t died yet. Jarod Kintz:
The year you were born marks only your entry into the world. Other years where you prove your worth, they are the ones worth celebrating.
I don’t inherently have a problem with birthday celebrations. In fact, I’ll be sure to connect with him and show him love. Generally, I prefer to show my level of care and awareness through knowing when something is important and meaningful to my loved ones. Sometimes, that’s marking a birthday. Other times, it’s celebrating an important accomplishment.
Regardless, celebrations are beautiful things until they become obligatory. Society has set us up. We are in a position of being the dick who doesn’t say “bless you” when someone sneezes or forgets “Teacher Appreciation Day.” No longer are we required to pay attention to our friends and family, learning what’s important. Now, we can simply take 30 seconds out of our day to leave a “happy birthday” note when Facebook reminds us, check the box and forget about it for another year.
Any action out of obligation inherently cheapens it. Celebrating because you’re supposed to doesn’t hold a candle to genuinely wanting to.
Take a couple on Valentine’s Day. Both parties are exhausted after a treacherous work week and desperately want to stay home, drink a glass of wine, listen to music, stay silent and go to sleep. Unfortunately for both of them, they have a reservation at Nobu and feel obligated to the date on the calendar to get dressed and go out. They struggle through forced conversation and keeping their eyes open, spending $300 on a meal that was largely forgettable.
Yes, they went to Nobu on Valentine’s Day and shared the pictures appropriately on Instagram for all to see. They’ve proven their relationship to the demands of society but won’t remember it until the credit card bill comes due.
What if they had genuinely honored themselves and each other and crashed, then spontaneously ventured out a different night and celebrated eating phenomenal food and inspiring conversation? Better yet, what if they picked out something about their day, no matter how small and celebrated that? I love the idea of a celebration of a new record lift or a promotion at work. Even a productive day of preparation for an upcoming project or planting an apricot tree seems more logical to celebrate than a birthday.
Sure, pass along the birthday felicitations. But take time to notice the friend who is quietly proud of achieving a major milestone and celebrate that. It will be remembered far longer than the flowers you brought in for Secretaries Day.