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Birthdays - What are they good for?

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Birthdays come around like clockwork - once every year.

Parties, celebrations, cards, a grand time is had by all.

Or some.

I am not one of those who is glad to have that “special day” pop up right on schedule.

Why not?

Here is how I view the occasion:

By far, the most important birthday is the first - the one year anniversary.

Historically, for sure, and in some places and to some extent everywhere, the first year is the most perilous. A child is much more likely to die before age one than in the rest of his childhood in total.

After that all-important milestone is reached, each birthday represents progress: physical growth, maturity, new abilities, and increased knowledge and awareness. And since those years also come with parties and presents, children really like having their birthday and when one is over, can hardly wait for the next. Children whose birthdays are near Christmas can feel cheated since many of the gifts will be two-fers, leaving them one short.

Some of those are really important as they represent “coming of age” years: 13-year-old Jewish children have a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, 15-year-old Hispanic girls have a quinceañera, there are Catholic confirmations, and probably other such rituals in other cultures and religions.

Around age 16 comes the major step of getting the Driver's License! Freedom! Mobility!

At 18, comes the right to vote, and being treated legally as an adult.

Finally, at 21 comes full adulthood - the legal drinking age being paramount.

And after that, what?

It's at that point, in my opinion, the ascendency stops, and the decline begins, and it's time to stop celebrating. If not then, then by 30 for sure. (A doctor once said to me, “God takes care of you[r body] until you're 30, after that you're on your own.”)

It's the decade birthdays that start to be jarring: first 30 (the “never trust anyone over” age), 40 (when “over the hill” cards and balloons appear), and so on. While you don't know it at the time, at some point, probably in your 30's or 40's, you reach the midpoint of your life, after which you have more past than future.

Somewhere along there the quote I have on the site home page came to me:

Birthday: that special day in the year that best serves to remind you that the start of your life is farther away, and the end is nearer.

Like New Year's Eve, that other “passage of time” marker, it seems to me that is not something to celebrate at all.

You made another trip around the Sun successfully! Bravo! Enjoy them while you can, because, as they say, “you aren't getting any younger”, no matter how much you'd like that to be the case.

It has been said, “old age isn't for sissies”, and my father in his old age said,
“these aren't ‘Golden years’, they are ‘iron tough’”.

Happy Birthday!