A decade ago, I welcomed my twenties already a veteran of a foreign mission (despite my best efforts) and a man with only great things ahead of him. My birthday party was a Margarita bash at my mother's home. Even though I was underage at the time, most of my friends were not. Also, having "risked my life" (a phrase thrown around then with less gravitas than it carries today) in defense of this country on a peacekeeping mission, I figured the least the country owed me was a few drinks on my birthday. The party was a massive failure. The only two guests, who were not Army or family, were two women I went to school with for a dozen years. One was my first-grade crush and another girl that was a great friend and taken for granted. They were important people in my life that I cut myself off from in an effort to become the kind of adult I wanted to be. It was culmination of a bad attitude about where I was from. Ironically, my closest friends now are all from my high school (or their spouses). It was a long and circuitous journey right back to where I started. Just like this past decade.
My two party guests, I think, are now both married and well on their way to a happily-ever-after, while my wild new relationship went down in flames leaving me no better off than I was ten years ago, with the giant exception that the child this relationship produced is now the literal center of my world. Her mother, that former wild girlfriend, has seemingly settled down with a career and what appears to be a serious, adult relationship. If 30 is the new 20 maybe that is why I feel like for ten years I have been running laps around a track, clocking miles on the odometer, but going nowhere like a hamster on a wheel.
The ideas of birthdays in general have always been awkward for me. It feels wrong to plan one's own birthday party, but if there are a number of circles of friends that don't intersect, it is the only way to get them all together. I felt obligated to do something large and celebratory and crazy to mark the beginning of my third decade of life. In actuality, I would be content to not do much. Bachelors have to throw their own parties and frankly, I just don't give a shit. It is nice to be celebrated, but it's the pinnacle of vanity to expect to be celebrated for keeping oneself alive. Still, I'll never turn down a free drink, a free dinner, or unearned kindnesses from the people in my life.
But then again, I always party like it's my burfday….