Why I Hate My Birthday (it’s not skin deep)

I don’t hate many things at all because it’s so much more productive to embrace the world, but I do hate my birthday.  The low feeling starts on July 1st, because my birthday is in July and I just want it to pass without any fuss.  My dislike of birthdays isn’t for the vanity reasons one might expect of a later thirty-something, although I’m not especially pleased with the new wrinkles or the gray hairs that appear faster than I can clip them. 

Before I reveal why birthdays are not on my “love it” list, a little background might help.  Growing up, I had an awkward phase that lasted from birth to about sixteen years old.  (Not exaggerating).  I tried to keep to myself, but always seemed to be a magnet for meanness.  Most memories are fuzzy remnants that are buried so deep I can’t piece them together, but some words I still remember clearly.

My parents didn’t know the gory details of what went on at school, but I’m sure they noticed I didn’t have tons of friends hanging around the house.  They tried to make me feel better and told me the other kids didn’t know how special I was or they were jealous of me.  I rolled my eyes at the special comment, and, even at the time, the latter didn’t make sense.  I couldn’t figure out what they could possibly be jealous of…was it the pale skin?  The glasses?  The teeth that only an orthodontist could love?  Or was it frizzed-out curly hair that I had when straight hair was all the rage?

My Grandparents lived down the street and I’d play at their house after school.  My Grandma always had snacks for me and the kids across the street (they hung out with me because my Grandma was friends with their Grandma and our moms went to school together too).  My Grandpa made me super-sweet Nestea instant tea with so much sugar that I think bees could mistake it for nectar.  No one could make tea like him.  (Several years ago I tried; it was gross).  My Grandpa’s birthday happened to be a few days after mine, which I always thought was cool. 

My Grandpa passed away several years ago after a long sickness.  Since then, my birthday has been a memorial rather than a celebration of another year of my life.  I miss him and imagine I always will.  Of course, I think about him throughout the year.  But July is harder, because it was our time and now I’m left to ‘celebrate’ alone.  Of course, I’m never physically alone, because I have family around me…but my heart just isn’t in it.

As an adult, my Mom told me stories about how my Grandpa worried throughout my childhood that I wouldn’t be tough enough.  She said he worked to make me stronger.  True, he did pick on me (in a nice way), but I grew up oblivious to his plan.  He didn’t want the world to trample me; he wanted me to have a mind and be able to speak it.  He wished I’d be able to say “yes” only when I wanted to and “no” when I needed to.  He urged me to be my own person and not who anyone else told me to be.  My Mom laughed at times when I would respond to him as a young child with a pouty lip, “I’m not tough.”  He knew what I didn’t:  if you let it, the world will eat you alive.

Guess what?  I think he succeeded.  I could have given up (and almost did) when I thought I couldn’t take the pain any longer.  I could’ve been an eager-to-please follower, but by the time I got through high school, I learned to stand my ground.  I value friendship because I know what it’s like not to have them; I have compassion, because I know what it feels like at the bottom of a deep well of sadness; and I found out that when you break, you pull it together and come back stronger.  I’m sad, but feeling…well, “tough” right now.  I AM tough.  When my birthday rolls around, I will put on my happy face and show thanks to those who remember, because I really do appreciate that they care.  At the moment, I feel like I can handle anything.  In fact, bring on the story critiques, query rejections and comments that this blog post stinks.  I can take it.

Thank you, Grandpa.  Happy birthday to us…

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16 thoughts on “Why I Hate My Birthday (it’s not skin deep)

  1. Brown Eyed Mystic July 13, 2010 / 8:44 PM

    Janna,

    Firstly Happy Birthday 🙂
    And I absolutely love the post–oh, well now, were you prepared to take that? Of course you were!

    Brings me to a commonality between us: I am a July born too, and a few days back assumed yet another year of my life. I am planning a post about the day’s happenings (too bad I can be lazy sometimes), but am sure it won’t be as powerfully packed as yours.

    I feel and wish the best for you–bless you and happy birthday again!

    -BrownEyed

    • jannatwrites July 13, 2010 / 9:07 PM

      Thank you for the birthday wishes. I’m glad you liked the post…and although I’m never prepared for compliments, I graciously accept them 🙂

      Happy belated birthday to you. Who knew you were a Cancer too? (I don’t follow astrology, but I do know my sign at least). Can’t wait to read your birthday post-I’ll keep an eye out for it!

  2. chlost July 14, 2010 / 2:37 PM

    Your writing on this post is very poignant. You’ve allowed me to picture you as a young girl and your grandpa. He was a very wise man who loved you very much.
    Here are my thoughts about the birthdays and other special events after the loss of a very special person: That person would give anything to be able to be here to celebrate the day with us. They would do anything to be here if they could. We owe it to them to treasure every day and every special occasion that we shared with them, and enjoy it with and for them.
    That’s my view, and I’m sticking with it….but there may be tears in my eyes and an ache in my chest as I do so.
    So, Happy Birthday! So there!

    • jannatwrites July 14, 2010 / 8:06 PM

      Thanks for your comment and the happy birthday wishes. I happen to like your view (so you should stick with it)!

  3. Lua July 15, 2010 / 12:29 AM

    First of all, happy birthday! Now, don’t get angry, I’m celebrating your birthday because I love your writing, so I think I’m good 🙂
    I can understand the special relationship you had with your grandfather, I have that kind of bond with my grandma and I think listening to her stories growing up has made me a stronger, better person. And a storyteller…
    The best way to keep his memory alive is to write about him so I think you just gave yourself and your grandfather the perfect birthday gift…

    • jannatwrites July 15, 2010 / 7:53 PM

      I couldn’t possibly be angry for a nice birthday wish. Thank you, Lua! By the way, you are an excellent storyteller and I have no doubt your grandma had a hand in it.

  4. leighwhitted July 15, 2010 / 3:18 PM

    Janna –
    What a great description of the realities of being the “weird kid” – I’m guessing that a lot of writers were in that position! You were lucky to have someone like your Grandpa in your life, and have done a nice job of sharing your memories with us.

    • jannatwrites July 15, 2010 / 7:55 PM

      Thanks for the nice and supportive comment, Leigh. I’m still not normal, but adults seem to me more accepting of it 🙂

  5. Jenni October 27, 2010 / 12:38 PM

    Hi,

    Great story. made me feel better. today is my birthday and I always feel undeserving of anything nice. I feel like “who am I to celebrate myself?” My grandpa died around my birthday a couple years ago so i also always think of that.

    I was laying on my bed and crying about getting older and feeling like I’m a loser and no one cares thats its my birthday and why should anyone care about anyones birthday but your article really made me feel better…at least you have a good reason for feeling the way you do.

    J

    • jannatwrites October 27, 2010 / 5:15 PM

      First of all, happy birthday. Secondly, you should celebrate your birthday because you are another year wiser. So, be nice to yourself and try not to focus on the unpleasant parts of getting older.

  6. pattisj July 12, 2011 / 2:21 PM

    Happy birthday, whenever it is, or was. 🙂

  7. fivereflections January 25, 2012 / 11:08 PM

    i stumbled into an older post, but that is okay, happy belated birthday :_

    • jannatwrites January 26, 2012 / 9:59 PM

      Aw, thanks, Fivereflections. It’s not belated…you’re just early for this year 🙂

  8. Colline July 12, 2013 / 4:36 AM

    How beautiful it is to have a strong relationship with a grandparent. And having had that, I can understand why you would feel sad during a time which he made special for you.

  9. Ariel March 17, 2014 / 3:06 PM

    This just made me cry. I feel the exact dame way as you.

    • jannatwrites March 17, 2014 / 8:57 PM

      I’m sorry, Ariel. I’m glad you could relate and thought to leave a comment. This is one of my more emotional posts (which I won’t re-read because I don’t want to cry 🙂 )

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