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Beating the Birthday

Submitted by Pierce Nahigyan on December 2, 2010 – 3:47 amComments

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PD Photo

PD Photo

I do not celebrate my birthday. It has been a source of annual frustration in my life.

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.

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  • Debi

    Interesting description of the homes in which you lived. Sometimes there are good reasons behind our experiences and birthdays might be a time to reflect and rejoice that if we are lucky we have learned and survived and maybe even a little bit better for the next year to come.

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