Roughly two months back, I turned 28. Like the past three years, this birthday too was one I wasn’t looking forward to. The reason? Comparisonitis and social pressure.
Like most people, I too have some expectation of the kind of goals I want or should tick off my bucket list as each year rolls by. But as usual, my plan is not exactly in alignment with God’s plan. I know you are probably thinking of Drake’s song because I sure am.
Anyway, like I was saying, there’s this huge pressure I put on myself to achieve certain goals because I am x years old and some friend/acquaintance/idol/influencer achieved this(and more) at this age. It sounds silly now that I type it, but it seriously weighs me down.
I know I am not the only one who experiences feelings of inadequacy and melancholy as the D-day draws near. There’s even a term for it: birthday depression. And if you have anxiety like me, you can add nausea, restlessness, and intrusive thoughts to the mix. Of course, your mileage may vary, but the result is the same: you feel shitty, tired, and grouchy. The exact opposite of how you are supposed to feel on your “special day”. The fact that people expect (read: bug) you to smile and be happy doesn’t help either.
With trial and error, I have finally figured out that the best way to deal with this condition is to accept it. Denial is only going to make it worse. Then remind yourself that even if you were at the stage in your life that you wanted to be, you would still find a reason to beat yourself up. After all, it’s human nature to be chronically dissatisfied, and this discontentment is the very reason we evolve and grow.
Once you own your misery, you will no longer force yourself to try to be happy. Soon, other people’s advice to cheer up will not really get to you. Whether they understand or not, you won’t really care. You won’t need their validation anymore.
That’s when you will be able to decide how to spend your day – and with whom. For me, it manifested as this question: Who said I have to throw a big, noisy party when I’d rather be in the tranquil company of a select few? So I did the latter and visited an orphanage to distribute cake – something I have always wanted to do, but never got around to until now. The kids’ happy smiles warmed my heart and also helped me get out of my head for some time.
And now for the most important part: how to handle the shit-I-haven’t-met-these-age-appropriate-milestones bit. Tell yourself over and over that this is just another of society’s scams. Some things will happen in your life only when the timing is right and if they are meant for you. All you can do is try your best.
Finally, because you deserve something to look forward to, here’s the thing: birthday blues are as real as they are temporary. A week or two later, you will be back to your old self. Till then, all you have to do is wait it out as patiently as you can. Unlike Seasonal Affective Disorder, this sadness passes pretty soon.
I did all of the above for my 28th, which is why it turned out to be much better than my 25th, 26th and 27th birthdays. If the thought of your birthday fills you with dread as well, why not give this system a shot? There’s more than a good chance it will work for you too.
Do you look forward to your birthday or does it make you feel queasy? Share your experience in the comments below.