Today is my daughter’s half birthday. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be making a big deal over this, but since she did, I wanted to share her thoughts on this. So today she is my guest blog author. For years, we celebrated the kids’ birthdays at school with a half birthday. Each of them still remind me of their half birthdays, and I feel like a heel for not sending them a cupcake! Here are Lauren’s thoughts as she celebrates her life today. Thanks, Lauren, for letting me share your ruminations!
Here’s to 24 and ½ years! I say-
If you aren’t counting your half-birthdays, you aren’t making your half-birthdays count!
I always look forward to my half-birthday… maybe even more than my birthday, and this one feels BIG! Einstein said time is relative, and indeed he was right. I think twenty-four and a half feels more significant as it is the last biannual period of the first quarter-century of my earthly experiences (nerdy, huh?), and the subsequent quarter-century evokes peculiar seriousness. Twenty-five and beyond connotes mortgages, days measured from nine to five, and 401Ks. The passage requires relinquishing any remnant of a childhood dream as if it were a torn and tattered security blanket that you are too old to still be carrying. The imagination that was carefully cultivated and nourished is now threadbare and unwelcome, and the forthcoming journey signals CAUTION: SHARP TURNS AHEAD or CRISIS X-ING, starting with quarter-life identity crisis. A mere decade ago, the discovery of identity was a romanticized concept of bildungsroman, or a coming of age. Grappling with such questions at 25 is undesirable to say the least, and this is only exacerbated by a debilitating fear of the unspeakable “L”-word, loser. Somehow, we believe this crap. Fact is, if on your 25th birthday, you realize you are a loser, you probably were the day before too, and one can only hope that self-identity is an evolving concept. There is no shift in the cosmos accompanied by a new operation manual that occurs on the 25th birthday.
Going back to Einstein, I ponder the meaning of a birthday in both relative and non-relative terms:
As for the latter inquiry of meaning, imagine defining birthday to an extraterrestrial visitor-a birthday can be concretely defined as a commemoration of the return to the position the Earth was, relative to the sun when an individual first saw sunlight. Accordingly, we might say that the half-birthday is the polar opposite of this position-a full 180 degrees or Π.
The relativity of time can be quite arbitrary. For example, if-as John Gray suggested- I and all other double-‘X’ers are from Venus, I would be 39.78 years with a crossing over of the proverbial hill to commence the 28th of March at 9 am (or 3/8th of a rotation of Earth if you prefer). If I was from Mercury, I’d be over 101 years old, and if I were a golden retriever on Mercury, I would be 419 years old (according to this dog/human conversion calculator I found online). In light of these considerations, I confidently infer that the relevance of the number-i.e. the age-is not exclusively temporal.
The relative meaning of time we often adopt is a product of our cultural paradigm. A Masai male must slay a lion to be considered an adult. An American simply must exist for 18 years for formal recognition of adulthood, but the unspoken rules of adulthood differ greatly. Personally, as a product of upper-middle class WASPs of suburbatopia, I find the expectations to be rigorous yet mundane and sometimes undesirable. To be considered a successful upper-middle WASP of suburbatopia, you must maintain your socioeconomic status (i.e. fat paycheck) and outwardly exemplify this point through appropriate living quarters (i.e. big house in nice neighborhood), appropriate means of transportation (i.e. luxury cars and soccer moms can have SUVs if it costs 30K or higher), and appropriate choice of clothing (i.e. the Gap cult with occasional designer names). While it is critical to be ostentatious, this must always come across as accidental or unintentional. There are many more nonsensical nuances which make lion-slaying an increasingly attractive alternative. Marketers have framed aging as the depreciation of personal value and capitalize on our damaged self-image, thereby creating space for some product to make us feel valuable again. The “Because you’re worth it” campaign of L’OREAL exemplifies how insecure many of us feel in regards to our self-worth. So why do we bother celebrating birthdays?
The amazing thing about being human is the ability to reject, accept, destroy, and create meaning. We have the ability to stand up and say, “You better believe I’m worth it, and no lotion or lipstick can touch that.” We can choose to receive each year (or half-year) of our life with gratitude. We can choose to keep pursuing life with child-like dreams and curiosity. We can choose.
Aside from the compulsory cupcake, this is why I love half-birthdays. No presents, lunch dates, parties, no fuss. As I navigate through a sea of many choices, this day, I pull out the charts. I look where I’ve been. I look where I’m at. I look where I am going. I anticipate the tides, the currents, and the weather. Alas, I choose my desired path.
from Annette: I only wished I had half this understanding today, on my 48 51/52 birthday.