Mixed feelings

I only got a Facebook account back in the day to talk to this girl and that small prompt opened me up to a world of connections. At the time I was living in Nigeria, so being able to find and reconnect with friends and family back in the UK was massive for me. At the time I naively input all my data, including my birthday, to the site and to my great surprise and pleasure my Facebook friends would message me happy birthday on my birthday. I didn’t even realise how accustom to the dopamine hit I was until one birthday it stopped. As upset about it I was it’s not the kind of thing you bring up.

“Why didn’t you tell me happy birthday on Facebook?”

Is a wild thing to say to anyone, let alone a friend and I kept the same energy when I would see friends shout-out other friends on their instagram story on their birthday but seemingly be quiet on mine. Why things like this upset me is because ultimately I want to be celebrated and feel special on my day. Obviously it is not all bad and I don’t completely live for the external validation of friends and followers wishing me a happy birthday. My family consistently show up in that regard.

I still remember last year as I drove home to my work hotel the night of my birthday. It hit me all of a sudden that I wouldn’t get a birthday text from my Dad for the very first time and it broke my heart. 5 mins away from midnight and the hotel I nearly broke down in grief at the thought but composed myself because I didn’t want to enter my birthday in tears.

A more light hearted birthday concern I have regards presents. Maybe it is just me but there seemed to be an age after which presents became illegal. Like I remember getting them and then one year that was that. Receiving gifts isn’t even one of my love languages but I feel slighted because of how it happened, as if one night all my friends and family came to an agreement to veto presents. Another bone of contention I have is that everyone wants to attend but few want to plan a birthday.

It’s me I am the few.

I don’t enjoy planning (yet) so my birthday is an issue as I know I want to do something just not what. Adding to the difficulty this year is the trumpeting elephant of COVID-19. As I write this lockdown rules change daily and as my birthday isn’t for another 10 days there’s a real possibility that all my planning is for nought.

Truth be told, the real reason I agonise over my birthday is the small dread of ageing. I left England after Year 7 and completed the rest of my secondary school education in Nigeria where they have an extra year, Year 12, so I returned to the UK at 17 years old to start sixth form college. At that point, I felt behind by a year in regards to my contemporaries who were going into their final year of A-Levels. Following A-Levels, I did a 5 year degree at university which I thoroughly enjoyed but again ensured I finished university with my Masters in Engineering at 24. Ever since, in my head at least, I have felt the need to somehow catch up on the 2 years (assuming you finish uni at 22 in the UK) that I feel was behind. I realise I am not even in competition with my friends or contemporaries but an imagined version of myself.

This Aharoun didn’t go to Nigeria or at least didn’t see it through all the way. He also didn’t do an integrated masters year. When I spell it out like that I don’t feel so bad and I am reminded like my Mum always says ‘that everyone’s race is different’ and you have to have tunnel vision on your own lane.

So why do I still feel nervous at the thought of soon becoming 28?

Why do I worry I have not achieved all I should have by now and that I am still behind?

Maybe I’m not alone. Maybe everyone over a certain age feels a tinge of sadness at birthdays and thinking about the year we are still getting through maybe I need to be mindful and more grateful that I am still here. I still have a chance to do all the things I feel called to do. If I focus a bit more on the present and all the things I do have I will be able to recognise my approaching birthday for what it is, a blessing.

Peace and Love,

Aharoun the Author.


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