today i’m 28 years old, and usually i make a huge deal about my birthday and bully sei to the point of a nervous breakdown, but this year i wasn’t so concerned. i was wondering why that was, and as i wrote in my journal this morning (yes, i still do that, and yes, i still write with a hot pink pen like i did when i was 15), i think i figured something out. in the past, i looked forward to holidays like christmas and my birthday (that’s right, i refer to my birthday as a holiday) for months ahead of time because it made me feel special when people fussed over me and bought me presents. the external validation was so important to me, and it never came so fast and thick as it did on my birthday. nevermind that people are almost obligated to be nice to someone on their birthday; i just liked feeling loved.
my pretty much insane and obsessive need to be appreciated on “my special day” really drove sei up the wall. where he comes from (samoa), birthdays just aren’t a big deal, at least not the way they are in the u.s. after the first birthday, which usually merits a big celebration with the entire family, the day passes without much fanfare. but in a society rampant with materialism and gotta-have-it mentality, a birthday is just another excuse to spend money, and i totally bought into that. sei didn’t understand why i would get so crazy about having the perfect birthday, but he always went along with my demands–whether or not he agreed with them–because he knew it was important to me. still, though, i know he still doesn’t completely get it.
i don’t really get it either, i guess. i always thought it was such a big deal to me because i’m just a vain and superficial person. while this might be partly true–i do like “things” a little too much, and i need to work on that–i saw today as i wrote in my journal that something much larger was at play. this is the first birthday in a long time that i’ve felt content. not just happy, because i’m generally a happy person, even when i’m depressed. but content. you know, like life could just stay as-is and you’d be pretty much all right? that’s how i felt this morning when i woke up. sure, there are things i want to accomplish and i’m no fan of stagnation, but for today, i feel like i fit. i fit in my life. on every other birthday for as long as i can remember, depression colored my perception so much that i felt uncomfortable in my own life, as though i was guest-starring in someone else’s role, and not doing a very good job of it, at that.
this past saturday, i got a letter from byu saying that they were offering me a graduate instructorship, which means i would be teaching a freshman writing class during my first year of grad school. i was completely ecstatic, since i was sure i’d bombed the interview (but when does anyone walk out of an interview and think, “nailed it!”), and this job is the job, you know, the job i’m hoping to get after i graduate. i applied to school in the first place because i want to teach at byu, and this really felt like a great first step in the right direction.
so i was all dancing my little jig and smiling ear to ear, and sei said something like “wow. things come so easily to you.” his tone was completely civil, but i was offended for a minute. i took it to mean he thought i don’t have to work for anything, and everything is handed to me with a side of fries. just the thought irritated the crap out of me, because i’ve never thought of myself as a person who just coasted along in life. i was getting ready to junk-punch him when he clarified that he thinks it’s cool how lucky i am, that i’ve been able to get everything i want. a little better, but still–i didn’t like the implication that i just snap my fingers and the world falls into place.
i thought to myself, i’ve had my share of trials, right? i’ve paid my dues, and i’m sure i’ll pay more, so i deserve all the good that comes to me…right? i never really came to a conclusion, and just pushed it out of my mind for the moment. it still irked, though. but this morning, as i wrote my annual birthday wrap-up of the previous year, i realized sei’s so right. so, so right. whether i’ve had a hard life or not (and many people would say not), i am an incredibly blessed–or lucky, if that makes more sense to you on a metaphysical level–woman. because as the saying goes, bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. if i just assume that i fall somewhere in the middle of the good-bad spectrum, all things considered, my life has been pretty amazing.
i don’t know.
it sucks that some people seem to consistently draw the short straw of life. but i don’t worry too much about those people, mostly because i believe in a justice that extends beyond the bounds of earthly life. i think the people who have the most difficult burdens are the ones who are best equipped to deal with them, and will be rewarded accordingly in the hereafter. as for me, though, i’m not sure why i have it so good. i’m just thankful. and i’m going to hold on to this illusory serenity and preserve it for those moments of strife when i’m tempted to wonder “why me?”, because that question goes both ways, as i’ve realized today.
i guess that’s a lesson 28 years in the making–i’m thinking maybe i need to be demoted to the remedial life skillz class. so that’s why today, i don’t need a big to-do, because i already feel appreciated and loved and blessed. like i said, sei was right–i do have everything i want, and i couldn’t ask for anything more.