Beating the Birthday
When I was a child, my family moved. From preschool to twelfth grade I attended ten schools in four states, living not infrequently in hotel rooms, apartment complexes and even the odd house, time permitting. I was, and this is not overstatement, always the new kid.
And as the new kid I was often led to choose from the social leftovers of my peers, the disparate groupings of equally awkward children who became my friends, seldom with any hesitation. I befriended strange and sensitive people who played just like the rest of the class at sleepovers and long bike rides. They were good, if disfranchised from charisma; and brave, even when epileptic. I had best friends from coast to coast, and I befriended them again and again and again.
I am very bad at keeping in touch because I believe in sustaining friendship. Joy is an exercise in present-mindedness and I have had much joy in my life. But the fullness of that joy sometimes negates careful planning for the future. In my family, the future was nearly akin to a curse word. The present is what lasts.
I disliked birthday parties as a child because I was never comfortable being the de facto center of attention. My entire waking life was spent actively trying to earn that right, and has led me to the stage and a host of other socially garish positions. Being the locus of a party is like telling the funny kid to be funny. And still a birthday party was praise for being around, and I hated (still hate) receiving gifts I have not earned. I am haunted by a party with the stealth of a divine neurosis, like a repeating hangover that no length of sobriety can remit. I simply do not know what to do with myself or anyone wishing me particular happiness for a particular day.
Regardless, I must be older, whether I like it or not. And that, my friends, is not a choice. When my birthday comes I do not celebrate it. I treat it like a grizzly bear that has come wandering rabid into my tool shed. There isn’t a lot of space but it will come on hungry and hot. Grab a hold of what you can and swing like mad; the bloody business can’t last forever.