A birthday isn’t a celebration of your birth;
it’s a celebration of why you live.
Friday was my birthday, and it was… different. It’s the only one i remember enjoying. It’s not like i was ever miserable on my birthdays, but i just never assigned much importance to them. I don’t remember my childhood birthdays, but for the last eight or so years, my attitude was that it’s only another day in the year, nothing to make a fuss over. My parents would ask me what i wanted, and i’d reply, “I don’t want anything. Who cares about birthdays?” I’d hate having to have my mom’s seaweed soup (a traditional Korean birthday soup), because i hate seaweed soup, and she’s not a good cook. I used to threaten her that i’d stop being her daughter if she made me any. But this year was different.
I didn’t do much. I woke up at around 5pm, wrote a few emails, and headed out to FedEx to send out my last document for a job. UPS was supposed to come by my house to pick up something, but instead of knocking and picking up my package, the delivery man just stuck the mailing label on my door. (UPS, you have a lot to learn from FedEx.) Then i went shopping with my parents for “teacher clothes” (more on this in another post) and finally had the ddeok-bok-ki i’d been craving for weeks for dinner. The ddeok-bok-ki was really good, but the draft beer tasted strange.
And so, it was an altogether unremarkable birthday. But i was strangely happy, and it was only yesterday that i figured out why, when i was up at my usual summer pre-bedtime hours in the morning. I’m at a point in my life where i’m perfectly satisfied. I know where i wanna be in a few years (grad school for Philosophy), and i know what i wanna do before i get there (teach). And now that i’m closer to making that dream of teaching a reality, i feel completely at ease and confident at the same time. This is the perfect opportunity for me to take some time off, get away for a while, make new friends, and also have a bit of time to myself to read and practice philosophy in preparation for grad school. And i value this opportunity because it’s what i wanted most.
I realized on my birthday that i’m really lucky. Not everyone is as happy as i am right now, as unafraid and worry-free. I have great parents who want only what’s best for me, and when i move to Seoul, i’m going to miss them. I took a semester in Paris in 2008 to get away from them, and i only learned after i suffered there that i’d made a terrible mistake. I love them very much; i hope they know that, because i’m not very good at showing it.
So yes, a birthday is just another day in the year, and the idea of revisiting and celebrating the day you were born is rather absurd. But it is special for a reason: it is the day your loved ones cherish because it reminds them that you exist in this world, and how much that means to them. You might not think much of your own birthday, but that doesn’t give you the right to stop others from celebrating it. It might be “your day,” but it is also their chance to show you that you matter to them. I used to think, ‘I didn’t choose to be born, so why should i celebrate this day?’ But the thing is, even though none of us chose to enter this world, most of us stay in it because we have people in our lives who are important to us. And that’s a pretty good reason to celebrate.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: i had my mom’s seaweed soup this year, and it was good. I told her it sucked as usual, but i secretly enjoyed it. And i can’t wait to have it again.