On Wednesday I began my 27th year crying. Midnight arrived as I sat at my computer. My fingers hovered above the keyboard, my eyes narrowed on a date that used to give me such butterflies as a child. I remember the sleepless night before; the fluttering of hope and excitement for a brand new age. Eight was always better than seven-and-a-half, ten was better than nine-and-three-quarters, and every birthday was welcomed with such unmitigated joy.
As a child you know nothing of responsibilities and the difficulties that adults face daily. Life is a playground and there is so much time left to explore it that you never questioned its passing; the increasing age. You welcomed it with as much excitement as the scores of presents and cards and candles on cake.
But it is different now. The older you get the more a birthday sheds its skin and shine until it is just another day in a week, month and year. Presents are nice and cards are appreciated but the age? The increasing number is no longer something I greet so readily. There are a number of reasons for this: I am not where I want to be in my life, or doing what I always dreamed. I don't currently have someone special to share my day. Imagination and reality are conflicting. I feel so damn stuck. And while it seems like everyone around me is doing the job of their dreams, getting married and having babies, going off on world adventures, I am here. And it is not where I want to be and I am not who I want to be. Now another year has flown by too swiftly and I did not think to reach out, to grab it and go along for the ride.
I feel engulfed by quicksand and though I've been in the pit for a while now, just the fact that it was my birthday seemed all the more resonant.
At 12.01am the thought of this was like a sharp pinch to soft flesh, a heavy punch to my gut; it knocked the breath from my chest. The thoughts - so many rambling thoughts - bubbled up and tumbled down my cheeks. The realisation of all these things that I had considered fleetingly over the past year; vague moments and wonderings, sporadic feelings of failure, suddenly aligned like the sun and my zodiac. Before me they sat; accumulated like a line of bitter pills I had to swallow. It was not pleasant.
By 12.10am the sniffling had decreased and I actually managed to settle down for some sleep. In the morning, when the light was white and my head was clear, I opened cards and presents and felt okay. Later there was cocktails and laughter, dinner and a trip to the theatre to see Driving Miss Daisy. And though we sat up in the heavens with the realisation that my long distance vision had declined (damn you, age!), I thought about how James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader, was treading the boards below me with an expertise that amazed and 'well, this isn't so bad'. Not at all.
At the end of my birthday I dropped tired into bed and thought more about the play I had just seen; about Daisy and Hoke and how old they were when they realised they were best friends. Once again the thought struck me; I might not be where or who I want to be but I am only 27. I've still got plenty of time to figure that out; to explore the playground. And even if I am still waiting until my nineties for all these things I have stacked with such importance, surely the journey there will be worthwhile.
I sometimes wonder why I worry at all. But isn't reflection the very nature of birthdays? Reader, what say you?