Friday, 8 August 2008

20 Candles, One Wish

Yesterday I listened to a radio program discussing age, getting older and one's impending demise. Without sounding like a hindsight hero, the points raised further proved to me theories I had previously speculated.

To most of us, getting older is something we'd rather not talk about since it reminds us that we're slowly but steadily treading towards life's chequered flag.

It was said that, on the one hand, men are more prone to bouts of depression as they get older which, to me, is perfectly understandable as a fellow member of the gender. Spirits tend to be at their absolute lowest when we step into the mental landmine that is the mid-life crisis. Pitifully, we attempt to re-fuel our self-esteem by behaving in ways that would make any young man cringe. If you ask me, I'd say it's a fault in modern perceptions of what makes a 'man' rather than a testosterone-induced sense of inferiority. That's the deal with men. Women, on the other hand, ever the stoic ones, take pride in growing older. Despite the gradual loss of youthful exuberance and possible gaining of other, less glamourous bits, women are heartened at seeing their offspring blossom. This is almost unanimously considered to be the greatest achievement of all. In short, women are generally adept at marching along the sandy shores of time with the sort of majestic grace that us men can only look down on with great envy and pity.

I couldn't listen to the entire program but the question of age, coupled with my birthday, triggered in me a rant-like mental monologue..

What's the big deal with birthdays?

You wake up with a certain sense of importance. "Today's the day" you think, and then you prepare to face the world with an air of confidence. You get to be the centre of everybody's attention -and affection, I would assume- and you get a few presents and words of congratulation from those who cared enough to remember the date. So far, it's all perfectly fine and I have no objection. What I find utterly unfathomable is why you're supposed to be showered with praise and made to feel like you've achieved, over the past twelve months, a distinctively praise-worthy goal(s), when in most cases you actually haven't.

I'm not a cynic or a party-pooper. I love nothing more than having a genuinely good time with the people I love; but to actually 'celebrate'? Give me a break! What's there to celebrate? There are far too many things to resolve that are just a little more urgent than deluding yourself with a false sense of achievement and self-worth. It's just too vain for my liking. Of course, my rant strictly applies to people who blow more than, let's say, 18 candles. Anyone who is yet to reach that milestone has a claim to being boundlessly pampered for the sake of living in today's child-centred and ever so caring society. A friend of mine always seems to win whatever argument by declaring with clear frustration "Fucking hell! we live in the 21st century!"
I guess so.

Personally, I have tended to feel disappointed with what little I have managed to do over an entire year. Few are the birthdays when I have genuinely felt happy when revisiting the highlights of the bygone months. Last night, however, as the clock struck midnight, officiating my becoming a twenty-something (nothing really, just twenty), I felt compelled to re-evaluate my opinion on birthdays and what they're supposed to mean..

Life is way too short and every passing minute should be cherished. Special moments, people, places and words are to be preserved in an imaginary perfume bottle for us to open and re-live whenever we wish.

The past year has taught me to be more tolerant of difference, to seek solace in my family, to keep climbing despite the numerous hurdles which, with sufficient determination, become anecdotal. Not only am I on the verge of completing a third of my university degree, I have also been extremely lucky in getting a foot on the ladder of my dream career by working during the entire summer for a respectable broadcasting corporation.

My hopes have been put into perspective and my ammunition polished.. all I have to do now in order to make today a success (in the eyes of my foul-mouthed friend, at least) is be a little merry and blow the candles.. but what would I wish for?

Seriously, I wish I didn't care so much!

I can clearly hear my inner-emo protesting "such a lousily corny finale!"