I'm not sure how many others have felt this way, but for the last 15 or so years, I always thought celebrating birthdays were the most overrated thing ever.
You learn to feel that it's supposed to be something special and it never ends up living up to your expectations. At best you get a few presents, which if you think about it, you'd probably be happier to receive on any other day. More likely you get a bunch of facebook posts on your wall that say "Happy Birthday :-)", mostly from people you haven't heard from in years, except for that one time a year when they tell you "Happy Birthday :-)"
I don't know about you, but for me those posts never make me feel better...they kind of make me feel worse.
This year I did get a nice surprise. One single friend remember my birthday (since I don't share it on traditional social media anymore) and told some friends who ran a shop near my house, invited me there, asked a friend who plays accordion to come sing me happy birthday, and some other friends prepared a cake.
I felt happy, not because it was my birthday, but because people actually went through that effort for me, and sometimes I really feel like I don't always matter as much to this crowd because I only meet them once every week or two, while the rest of the meet at least 3 or 4 times a week.
I remember about 6 years ago when I was drifting and sleeping at my friends community space, everyone bought me avocados and chocolate and cooked a wicked meal for me. I didn't really enjoy the "Happy Birthday" song...I never do...but it was nice that everyone remembered I liked avocados and made sure I had enough to eat for a week and a half.
So the more I think about it, birthday traditions are mostly kind of hollow and don't really get me off, but the tradition of remembering a person once a year and making an effort to show them you appreciate them is really nice....and I kind of feel like a dick for not doing it for the past 15 years. I literally ignore everyone's birthday because "BIRTHDAYS ARE A CONSTRUCT, MAN!"
Birthdays ARE a construct, man....but that doesn't mean I can't find the good in them, and filter out all the BS.
What if I use birthdays just as an excuse to reconnect with people and to show them appreciation. FB tells you whose birthday it is, and FB is where I can contact most of the people who I have lost touch with. I might as well use their birthday reminder as an excuse.
Instead of saying "Happy Birthday", I can send a message to that person and invite them to catch up sometime. Why not, right? It sure beats checking my feed. I always feel that traditional social media has it's uses, even if here is a whole lot better, and as long as those old contacts are only on there, I might as well say hi.
Meanwhile I can see who on my list of birthdays is already unfamiliar and uninteresting to me and unfriend them to simplify the eventual process of totally migrating away from the platform.
There is one more thing I want to do. I want to say a kind of prayer of appreciation for those people, just silently, because a lot of them were pretty awesome people and I want to make something ceremonial out of this since the birthday is a yearly thing.
Birthdays will no longer be anything with any kind of expectation (or rejection of expectations) attached in my mind. It will merely be a day for me to remember and honor all the friends and acquaintances I've made, especially those who I no longer keep in touch with, and an excuse not to lose touch.
I will try my best to make that person smile, and not just with a birthday wish, but with a wholehearted message of appreciation. There will be zero sense of obligation, and zero guilt for forgetting. It will just be an excuse to spread some good vibes in a very simple and easy way.
This is my way of reclaiming the concept of a birthday. There are probably a lot more conventions that I could reclaim and give new purpose to. I'll be keeping my eyes open for them. Let me know if you have any ideas.
My first mini-novel, Confessions of the Damaged - Out Now!
📕 Confessions of the Damaged Coming March 15
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