© Illustration by INJECTION - Alicia Lupieri
Submitted by Zoe Spirig (21), Switzerland
Another year of me telling people I am a certain age comes to its end. Another day of gift-receiving pressured socializing and half-hearted gratefulness for life is approaching. It’s going to be my birthday again. When thinking about one’s own birthday, more generally just hearing the word “birthday”, one or many distinct feelings and memories arise. I recently asked myself, why me and so many people don’t really mind or like and even dread their birthday which is completely contradicting to the positive and exciting picture that gets painted around it when we are little.
Maybe we set our expectations so high based on stories and movies that we are doomed to be disappointed. Maybe it’s a fear of death that comes with a certain age. Maybe it’s our family and friends that let us down on this particular day or maybe it’s because one has to spend this day all alone. Whatever reason it may be that leads to many of us not looking forward to birthdays, any and every reason is valid and does not have to be justified to anyone else. Nonetheless, it is of great importance to ask: “What can we still appreciate about them?”
In recent years, when thinking about my birthday, the feeling of dread has been accompanied by a feeling of pride. Every birthday I am reminded of my ability to make it through another year despite all the heartaches and obstacles. Especially when dealing with mental health issues, a year can hold a lot of struggles that manifest in moments of hopelessness where time stands still. I personally never thought that I would make it past 17. Here I am years beyond and proud of my success of experiencing several more birthdays.
Every single birthday leads me to reflect on the past year and all I have accomplished. We tend to oversee our growth during the process of growing. That is why it’s important to reflect on it frequently. I like to imagine myself like a tree that gets another ring every year and therefore gets stronger, wiser and more resilient to environmental influences. Something else that feels very empowering is the ability to constantly reinvent oneself; we can be someone and something else every year. Life isn’t stagnant and so aren’t our hard times. As my therapist told me recently: “Life is like a river. It flows and changes constantly. Therefore, no matter where you enter, you will never step into the same river.”
So no matter what your experience with birthdays and feelings towards them are, I’d like you to use this day as a reminder of your strength and perseverance. Birthdays aren’t always that bad, they just show us that we’re capable of change.