I learned something this past week, the importance of celebrating one's birthday, especially in this me-centered world. I learned it because my birthday barely registered a blip on the radar screen. No one really cared. I got a total of 4 verbally expressed "happy birthday" wishes. The first two were from two girls I work with who have crushes on me. The second came over the phone from my Dad (who on Saturday came over to celebrate my birthday), and the last came VERY late at night from a good friend (who I also work with), long after I had become depressed. This wasn't a very good birthday for me. But it's not because few people cared, it's because ONE person didn't care. No birthday wish I received or did not receive mattered to me like the birthday wish I did NOT get from my girlfriend¹. She didn't even call. The only communication I got from her came at 10:00 pm over instant messenger, her favorite little word, "meow". I didn't respond. Maybe I should have. That was the last word between the two of us, so far. "Meow". It's my favorite word too, especially when it comes from her lips. I love it when she says this. She sounds just like Spongebob's little pet snail Gary. But because it was clear that she had forgotten my birthday, even after I reminded her a couple of days earlier, the word was a dagger in my heart. To her, it was just another day.
Her birthday wish was so important because she is so VERY important. I have invested OH soo much in her. And she seems to have invested so little in me. She is very self-centered. I give so much to her every day of the year that this day had to be my vacation from her selfishness. And she chose to make this day the first day in which she would change her life. Earlier in the day she posted on her blog that she was changing her life. I didn't take it that she was dumping me. Even she wouldn't do that on my birthday. My first girlfriend already did that 20 years ago. This one had determined that she would be changing something about herself. She had forgotten my birthday even in the morning. She spent the whole day thinking of herself when it was MY day. I really needed to hear a "happy birthday" from her. I really needed a phone call from her at work. I really needed her to want to spend time with me that night. I really needed for her to give me a gift. Nothing big. I didn't care what, just something to tell me that I was important to her. The gesture was all I wanted. She's always told me that birthdays were not really celebrated in her family. Considering the personality of her family, I'm not at all suprised. They are each one of them extremely self-centered. And that is exactly why a birthday celebration from her would have been so special.
So I learned why a birthday wish is important or not important. The two girls that have a crush on me, I didn't care that they wanted me to have a happy birthday. There is nothing between us. The birthday wish was more important to them than it was to me. Maybe you think that I am too self-absorbed or something, but you see, THAT is what the birthday is all about. The birthday is the ONE day of the year in which a person is ENCOURAGED to be selfish. And for good reason. It's important for SOCIETY for each of us to celebrate our birthday. It's a celebration of togetherness. It's the one day of the year that celebrates what we do for others. We spend all year long giving to other people. Even if we are selfish, we still give just by being alive. By simply having relationships at all, we give. So our birthday is the one chance for all of the people we serve throughout the year to say to us, "Thank you so much for being born. My life is better because of you. You are important to me. Sit back. Relax. Today it's YOUR turn to be selfish." You see birthdays are NOT about selfishness. They are about selfLESSness. They are a celebration of what we do for our fellow man. They are a celebration of our relationships with other people. If you don't have a relationship with someone, then the birthday wish isn't as special. But if you do have a strong relationship with someone, the birthday wish is EXTREMELY important, unless you are too self absorbed to appreciate that someone else cares for you.
In this "look out for 1" world, people forget the importance of the birthday because the modern world is so very selfish. At best a birthday is an excuse to party, often in the middle of the week. Again, the birthday is more important to the people throwing the party than to the person for which the birthday party is thrown. We don't care anymore, because the rest of the year we are so selfish. I hear a lot of people say things like, "we shouldn't celebrate birthdays because birthdays are about selfishness." Or "we should treat EVERY day as if it is someone's birthday." These people that say this make me laugh. EVERY day IS a birthday for them. THEY are selfish every day. Of course a birthday isn't going to be important to them. It's just another day to THEM. But if you give every day, you need one day of the year to be just yours. And THAT is the reason the birthday is so important. It's not about selfishness. It's about people coming together to tell us that we are important to them. It's about US serving THEM. It's about people recognizing and appreciating that WE serve EACH OTHER. The birthday is about unity and community.
So the next time someone's birthday comes along, consider your relationship with them. Are they really important to you? Are you important to them? Do you want to continue having a relationship with them? If you do, then you had BETTER celebrate their birthday.
¹ I call her this just for simplicity's sake. Though in fact, even though we haven't defined it, she really is (still) my girlfriend, whether she likes the term or not.