“Okay Google, why do I hate my birthday?”
Ever since middle school I’ve hated my birthday. I’d dream of erasing the day or just running away altogether. I thought it was something only I went through, until yesterday. I lied on my bed, dreading yet another upcoming birthday, and wondered for the first time if maybe I could find answers online. So I asked my phone.
Turns out, “birthday depression” or “the birthday blues” is fairly common. People with birthday depression love to celebrate other people’s birthdays, but feel heavy and anxious when it’s time for their own. Check and check.
According to the first article in the search results, birthday depression comes from fear: fear of aging or fear of the unknown. I rolled my eyes.
While I’m not a fan of wrinkles cracking across my face, I’m not afraid of aging either. After all, it’s better than the alternative! And fear of the unknown? I believe there are very few things that can actually be known so that doesn’t really apply either. The problem was this article was written by someone who didn’t have birthday depression, or so it seemed. (That was kind of unclear…)
After skimming several other articles Google suggested, I finally pieced together something that helped.
Birthday depression can be linked to fear, sure. But it also comes from high expectations, childhood trauma, embarrassment (common for introverts), and/or disappointment about your life. Could 1, or all of these, be true for me? I had to look closer to find out.
Embarrassment: No one knows what to do when everyone in the room is singing at you. Option A: smile like an idiot and stare at the cake or candles. Option B: Hide behind your phone as you record. So yes, there’s definitely an element of embarrassment, but hate is a strong word. 2-minutes of embarrassing singing isn’t the reason I hate my birthday.
Child-hood trauma: I remember in elementary school I invited nearly half of the class to my birthday party. Then, I did something and was grounded so I wasn’t allowed to have a party anymore. I had to go to every kid I’d previously talked to and explain, “hey, I’m not having a party anymore cuz I was bad so sorry. haha…” It was mortifying. Even though it happened so long ago, it could be part of the reason I’d rather skip my birthday.
High-expectations: There’s an episode in New Girl where Jess tries to hide from her birthday. She explains that she actually is really excited about her birthday and has such high hopes and expectations that it’s impossible to meet them so it’s better for her if she just hides. That stuck with me.
I used to have this idea of people getting together and having a good time over good food with various party themes and all that other craziness we see for birthday parties on TV. Like Jess, I decided to just stuff those ideas down and hide away instead. High-expectations? Yeah, that might be a little bit of where my birthday depression comes from.
Disappointment: As soon as I read that word, I knew that was it. I was/am disappointed in myself. 3 years ago I wrote about this too, but I thought surely by the time I reached 29 I’d be married, getting ready to have a kid, and living in a house in a suburb.
I am immensely disappointed with my life.
BUT I’ve also learned that
I can’t count how many times I’ll find a quote on Pinterest and think, “YES! That’s so inspiring! That’s exactly what I need.” Pin it. Then feel a gentle nudge say, “Hmm. Look at that again.” And every. time. on the second glance, that quote that was so inspiring and uplifting is actually un-Godly and selfish.
Today the quote was:
“I see a certain life for myself and I won’t stop until I get it.”
I pinned it immediately. That quote felt empowering and it felt good. I do see a certain life I want, and I should do whatever it takes to get it. Then, not even a second later I deleted it because I realized, as a Christian, I handed control of my life to God. And if I’m fighting the world to get the life I want for myself, I might end up plowing over the life and the people God wants for me.
It’s easy to write. Much harder to actually live.
It took me 29 years to recognize it but I hate my birthday when I compare it to my expectations. “I thought I’d be _____ by now.”
I hate my birthday when I focus on how far behind I am compared to my friends. “They already have their dream career. They have a home. They’re married.”
I hate my birthday when I think about planning an event and inviting people. “What if they don’t like each other? What if no one can come? What if the food is gross?”
I hate my birthday when I think my birthday has to look and feel a certain way.
When I was 3 I had the best birthday. We had a huge bonfire and all my friends and half of the town came out. We lived in the country so the stars filled the sky. I remember riding around on a tractor-pulled-trailer and climbing hay bales with my cousins. I was too young to notice if they were forced or not, but I remember lots of smiles. I wish I could capture that energy every year.
I wish my birthday was a day where everyone I love came together and didn’t judge or compare, but just enjoyed life together.
I have to believe that even though my life is not flashy, or sophisticated, or accomplished, I hope I’m steadily following where God is leading. Then maybe I can have a happy birthday too, and banish the birthday blues.
Karianne is the founder of Windmill Ways. She plays the cello professionally and currently works as an Art Director for a charity. Because she loves animated shows and movies, she studies 3D animation and graduated with a BFA with the unfortunate class of 2020. Her dream vacation would be just staying home, but "home" being a glamorous cabin somewhere in the mountains surrounded by forest.
Favorite band: Lord Huron
Favorite book: This Present Darkness
Favorite quote: "Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life. You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail." Proverbs 19:20-21 (NLT)
Would you like to share your story on Windmill Ways? Apply here.