How I Cured My Yearly Birthday Sadness
I finally (gasp! An adverb) figured it out. Loneliness is my life's theme.
When the god/goddess/universe/whoever/whatever gave the babies of 1984 their lives' themes, I somehow ended up receiving LONELINESS. Why couldn't it have been SEX or DRUGs or ROCK 'N' ROLL? Heck, I would've been okay with GOURMET so I could possess interest with cooking instead of just eating. Or CHESS (even if I find it oh so boring) so I could've been "Xeno Hemlock: Chess Grandmaster | Entrepreneur | Coffee Junkie | ♛ 💵 ☕️"? But no! Somehow and someway, little, adorable, button-nosed baby me got showered with the raindrops of LONELINESS and now I hate (and love in secret) Ricky Martin's solo rendition of Nobody Wants to be Lonely.
Though I’ve never been void of having people in my life, family, friends, co-workers, peers, lovers, and haters, I never felt that I truly (gasp!) belong. Growing up and becoming a gifted adult carried a lot of social challenges with it. Loneliness was the elephant in my room I rejected for so long. Once every year, every 12th of October, it turns wilder than ever and trashes the entire room. Unconsciously (gasp!) I try to expel it because it didn't deserve a place, especially (gasp!) not on my birthday.
I wanted the birthday party with the clowns, pabitin (the Philippines' version of piñata), the big chocolate cake with the number candle, and the attendance of all the kids in the neighborhood. But I never had it. I was lucky to even have a small chocolate roll to sweeten my little (family only) birthday party (not party).
Because of my parents both working abroad around that time, I got to live something close to my childhood birthday party dream. A wide spread of food, the attendance of my classmates (no clown or pabitin though), and the big chocolate cake with the number candle. Heck, I think I even wore my own party hat. Of course, I wanted gifts (emphasis on the ’s’) during that birthday but I only got a Spice Girls poster my classmates chipped in together.
Three Years Ago
During my existential awakening, I spent my birthday out of the country for the first time. Singapore became the location of my 29th. Joined by the company of two friends, I braved the rides of Universal Studios, drank beer by the beach, and stuffed my belly with authentic ramen (which alone is enough reason to return there). On the surface that special day looked perfect. But behind the scenes or rather my happy face, the story concealed a broken heart.
I wrote and published an article for fellow gifted adults on my 31st (something less selfish for a change). While the finished piece was the result of extracting the loneliness residing inside me, it didn't completely (gasp!) take it away. Deep in the recesses of my soul, that melancholy song of loneliness still remained.
Every year I dreaded the arrival of my birthday for I didn’t want to feel the sadness born out of my life’s theme. No, not on my special day. Sadness, please go away.
Last week for the first time in 32 years, I looked forward to my birthday.
No, I didn't banish the loneliness out of me and I shan't (we'll discuss this in the near future). But I found the cures to my birthday sadness. Thus, on my special day felt no self-pity. Now here, along with words from other writers, I share them with you.
Cure #1: Know Thy Identity (and Purpose).
"Your personal identity is the way that you see yourself and is closely related to your self image. It is very important to you because it will affect the way you feel about yourself and how you behave in challenging situations," wrote Karl Perera on his website. "One of the biggest problems people have with their personal identity is that they may not accept or may be blind to who they are and what they believe. Most of us today suffer from this to a certain extent because society seems to want us to behave and live in ways which may not be exactly what we want," he further wrote.
There’s an unseen void that plagues our life and eats us from the inside if we do not know our identity and purpose.
With that kind of ignorance, each day of our lives becomes an aimless expedition. That's exactly (gasp!) what happened to me.
But after I discovered my identity and purpose, a big chunk of that void disappeared. On my next birthday, I didn’t feel sadness the way I used to. On the next birthday after that, that void had decreased in size.
Cure #2: Don't Impress Others.
"The problem with seeking validation externally from other people is that our self-worth ends up at the mercy of their moods and on what we imagine other people are thinking of us. This leads to insecurity rather than self-confidence. We feel good when we get approval, but we feel terrible when we don't; or even just if we think we don't. Seeking external validation can become an addiction that causes an endless cycle of highs and lows and leaves us feeling overly self-conscious," wrote Graham Stoney on his website The Confident Man Project.
I wanted the big chocolate cake, the gifts, and the flashy celebration because I wanted to impress others. I wanted them to take notice and say “Oh! His birthday is so special and so much fun.” Their validation on how I spent my special day became that birthday present I desired the most, forgetting that it was MY birthday and the only validation that really (gasp!) mattered was mine.
Cure #3: Acknowledge the Past Year's Success.
"Acknowledging your achievements, even in a small way, increases positive emotions such as self-respect, happiness, and confidence. This is a very good thing in terms of your personal growth, but what you may not be aware of is that there is a growing body of research that associates cultivating positive emotions on a regular basis with psychological well-being, resilience and living longer,” wrote Marquita Herald on Emotionally Resilient Living.
A birthday is a gateway between the past and the future, our personal New Year. It's the perfect time for us to look back at the past 12 months and celebrate our personal development. It's also the perfect time for us to look forward to a better year ahead of us, make plans and set new goals. In my case, I only saw the disappointments and failures from the year that passed. Being in that gateway always felt painful because I unconsciously (gasp!) was taking the negative things to my next personal year instead of celebrating my previous successes.
“You self-published Walden and Hyde. That alone should be enough reason for you to stop thinking that your 31st year sucked,” I reminded myself.
I took a well-deserved birthday leave on the 12th. I stuffed my face with a lunch buffet. I drank coffee (because one shall not miss his birthday coffee). Then I got drunk in the evening, a really good drunk. On the way home, I almost lost my eyeglasses. Inside the vehicle I fell asleep, my head bobbing forward. When I stirred a little out of the numbness, my spectacles had already (gasp!) fallen off my face. Some people I expected to greet me forgot to but I just laughed it off.
I’m already (gasp!) looking forward to my next birthday.