I have made it to my last birthday in college. That’s so scary to think about—the last birthday with all of my friends in the same space. This existential crisis led me to one final conclusion: write an article for The Brandeis Hoot trying to understand my feelings.
I never understood why people cry on their birthdays until now. I loved my birthday growing up. I always joked that it was the most important holiday of the year. While I still feel that way, it’s hard to keep the optimism when realizing that the universe could not care less about you. Though 21 is supposed to be one of the most fun birthdays, this is by far the worst birthday of my life.
I am always unnecessarily extra about my birthday. It’s the one time of the year that I can be obnoxious and no one can object. I have countdowns and constant reminders and 50 different parties planned. Now it’s my last birthday here and I have never been more overwhelmed with work. I have no choice but to reign in all the fun. A lot of my hopes and dreams are sadly unrealistic given the pressure of midterm season. I had hoped to party my entire weekend—after all, you only turn 21 once—but instead I will be frantically cramming for my finance midterm for a good chunk of it. Now, I’m down to only one celebration with my friends. But, that just means I need to make the most of the time I have with my friends. If I have one party, I’m going to make sure that it’s my ideal birthday party. We’re getting cake and decorations and asking my roommates to wear ridiculous birthday regalia (roommates, if you’re reading this, it’ll make more sense tomorrow). I, of course, bought myself obnoxious birthday paraphernalia.
Even still, even knowing the joys that are to come, I am haunted by this sorrowful feeling of growing up.
Birthdays have always held a heavy weight in my life. As a kid, I was just lost in the attention and the joy of getting presents. Of course, this stops with age. No longer can I bring cupcakes to class or take the day off to relax. So, as I got older, I tried to make birthdays more meaningful, really lean into the idea of a birthday wish—maybe more of a birthday resolution. Not in the New Year’s resolution sense, where you make a goal to be a better person and then give up after two weeks. Instead I try to think about my intentions for the year. What do I want to do with my life in the age that I have?
This year I am faced with a particularly difficult situation. It’s my 21st birthday, the one where I should be able to get absolutely trashed the entire weekend. However, I know I can’t do that without ruining my entire GPA, something I can’t afford to do in my senior year. What intention do I want to set? I thought 21 was supposed to be fun, but as I look ahead, it all becomes increasingly serious. Midterms to finals to my last semester on campus to graduation. Do I pick a classic party for fun vibes or something more somber in preparation for the year ahead?
Last year, my birthday was in quarantine. I stayed home for the fall semester, so my birthday was just my parents, myself and a Publix cake. My only thought last year was that things wouldn’t be this bleak forever. Quarantine might be isolating, but soon enough I would be back with my friends. My resolution was to keep doing the best I can; there was a global pandemic, how could I ask for anything more? Perhaps I could stick with that one…
Looking back, there is only one other birthday when I’ve felt nearly this conflicted: my 17th birthday. Maybe there’s just something cursed about senior year? That year, I had been hoping to get some good news, only to find out terrible news the very same day. But, the day after my birthday was one of the most exciting days of my entire life! Maybe this year will be similar. Maybe Friday will be one of the best Fridays of my life.
I don’t know what my birthday or this year will bring. It’s terrifying and depressing and my birthday is consumed with math, but perhaps that just proves that there are brighter days ahead. I’ve lost all coherence at this point in my diary entry of an article, but that’s okay. It’s my birthday, it has to be published. 😉