We celebrate the milestones, like the first birthday, with much fanfare. Cake, friends, gifts and joy permeate the air. The first year is complete! Then there’s double digits, entrance to the teenage years, sweet sixteen and glorious 21.
And then it stops. We start to dread the milestones: 30, 40, 50. Then, around age 80, the joy comes back. A life well lived sneaks into the room and glows on a wonderfully delicious cake. Friends and family happily sing the birthday song.
How does that happen? Are the years between 21 and 80 really that bad, or have we forgotten how to live?
Just last week I celebrated my 39th birthday, and published my now-annual “things I want to do.” There was celebration alright. In fact, I’ve always referred to June as birthday month. It wasn’t until I shared my recent milestone with a friend that I was astonished by her reply, “I’m sorry.”
That got me thinking and reflecting and praying.
I always try to remember the joy that must have surrounded my birth. My mom tells me at 9:14 a.m. on June 11, her whole world changed. I definitely remember my tenth birthday, I got stitches at camp and had bubblegum ice cream to celebrate. A counselor told me, “Double digits rock!” I agree. When I turned 13, we hosted a nerd party and everyone dressed up appropriately. My dad even busted out his Army boots to play the part. At age 16, my parents conspired with friends and stole my car, filling it with confetti and balloons. It wasn’t until I almost made the call to the police that they all fessed up. Best birthday gag ever.
All the years in between, while rarely perfect, have never taken away the joy I have for my birthday. As I enjoy the last year of my 30s I’m only filled with one thing: gratitude. A family friend recently quipped “young people are in the obituaries, too.” My day of celebration has reminded me, much like the start of Lent or New Year’s Day, that it’s a time to start anew, set goals and transform myself.
What will you do on your birthday? Celebrate the adventure or dread the inevitable. I say, live it up. Eat some cake, celebrate with friends and know that the day you entered the world is always celebrated by God. That’s reason enough to belt out “happy birthday,” don’t you think?