Opinion — My struggle with birthday celebrations


Andie Balenger/NW

ALL SMILES — A photo of me when I was 7 years old, giddily smiling with my choice of a cookie cake at my birthday party. When I was younger, my birthday felt like the best day of the year. Now, my birthday forces me to face the fact that I have no choice but to “grow up” and be an adult.

Andie Balenger

As much as it pains me to admit, 21 springs and 21 summers have now passed me by.

It is fair to say that most people enjoy celebrating their birthdays. You get to eat your favorite cake, receive money in the mail from relatives who live hundreds of miles away and all of your Facebook friends are encouraged to wish you well. 

Some may argue that birthdays are the most important celebration for an individual in a calendar year. It only comes once and is entirely dedicated to you as an individual — unless your birthday falls near some federal holiday, or you have a twin. Then, it is likely that your special day gets conjoined with other celebrations. 

Sorry about that.

But to be honest, I have never been fond of celebrating my birthday. This may shock some, but I have not had a formal birthday party since I was 13 years old. The only reason I remember the exact age so well is because my last party was spent at the old, indoor roller-skating rink in Escanaba with my friends. 

That place was my jam as a kid, and it was sadly shut down not too long after my party. 

Since then, each of my birthdays has looked relatively the same. I wake up to messages from close friends and family, open a card or two and then go about my day as usual. I also get my free pizza from Main Street Pizza, obviously. 

I now prefer my celebration of life to look like this — on the down-low, mellow and with people I love. The reason I avoid such exuberant birthday celebrations is quite simple: with each passing year I have to face the reality that I am getting older, the world around me will never be the same and I can never truly go back to what once was. 

It is scary, right?

My birthday drama is reminiscent of the Friends episode “The One Where They All Turn Thirty.” When Rachel wakes up to find her friends had thrown her a surprise party for her thirtieth birthday, she says nothing and – appropriately – slams her bedroom door in their faces.

We act this way as we grow older because the feelings that now surround our birthdays are much more somber, especially when compared to how we felt when we were children. 

When you were young, your parents likely planned some elaborate party for you that was themed after your favorite cartoon or movie at the time. I was a big fan of Dora the Explorer throughout the first several years of my life — and I looked like her too — so she made many guest appearances at my celebrations.

But anyways, you probably struggled to sleep the night before the big party, and the day of you could not stop asking what time your friends would be coming over. Everyone’s eyes were on you as you ripped open presents, screaming at the sight of a new toy before tossing it aside and tearing into another perfectly wrapped gift.

I am happily reminiscing as I type this out.

However, that excitement escapes me now. As a 21-year-old, I obviously lack the naivety of a child who is too young to understand the positive and negative consequences of growing old. Instead of worrying about my best friend not showing up to my party, I am now worried about filing my FAFSA, investing in the stock market and figuring out how insurance works.

It sucks.

Granted, I was a bit excited to turn 21. Not for the same reasons that most 21-year-olds are, but because I feel as if I am finally a recognized member of adult society. I am no longer stuck in the awkward stage of life where no one takes me seriously, yet I am expected to behave seriously. 

But once again, this “becoming an adult” thing is pretty intimidating. As someone who is about to obtain an undergraduate degree and head to graduate school, you would think that I have a firm grasp on the mechanics of adult life.

I obviously know how to pay rent, grocery shop and check the pressure of my vehicle’s tires, but what is a 401(k)? Will I ever be able to buy a house? How do I build my credit score?

When it comes time to celebrate my birthday, I always blow out my candles and wish I was a kid again. I am comfortable disclosing my birthday wish because I know it will never come true. In all honesty, birthdays nowadays just make me question my status in life and remind me that I actually have no idea what I am doing. 

However, I like to look at every year as a new adventure. While I may not have the intricacies of life figured out just yet, I look forward to experiencing what life has to offer me as I enter the twenty-first year of my life. While the unknown that lies ahead can be terrifying, we all have – and will continue – to face the unknown every day. 

Considering, so far, how many forks have presented themselves to me on the road of life, I am eager to see what decisions await me in the next 12 months. I am sure this year will be more challenging than the last but persevering through adversity and amounting victorious with each passing birthday is what allows us to gain wisdom and grow as individuals.

Editor’s Note: The North Wind is committed to offering a free and open public forum of ideas, publishing a wide range of viewpoints to accurately represent the NMU student body. This is a staff column, written by an employee of the North Wind. As such, it expresses the personal opinions of the individual writer, and does not necessarily reflect the position of the North Wind Editorial Board.