Ever since I was a teenager, birthdays are something that I look forward to and dread at the same time. As I have just turned another year older and decided to throw a birthday party again this year, I decided to take a step back and look back at previous birthdays and birthday parties, and analyze what happened and what I was feeling during those moments.
My birthday comes exactly one week before Christmas. While it is another reason why I do love the Christmas season, the biggest downside to it is that everybody is usually busy with other Christmas celebrations, and sometimes, I end up getting a combined birthday and Christmas present. On the flip side, as Hollywood has been churning out movies that have to do with franchises that I love before or during my birthday week, I am able to insist that my birthday present is to watch these films with the entire family.
However, there are years that I do have a birthday party, and that usually comes with a whole lot of mismatched expectations, worries and anxieties.
Whenever I do throw a party, I always make sure that I am the on who organizes the party. I am not very fond of surprises, and my reactions towards surprises usually end up putting some people off. It’s not that I don’t like surprises, like my family surprising me with a present I do really like or a birthday cake after dinner, it’s just that I don’t know how to react to big unplanned ones.
I remember that during my 17th birthday, before eating out for dinner with my high school friends, they surprised me by coming up with a choreographed medely of Broadway songs that I love, and performed it on the stairs of one of my friend’s houses. I entered the door, they performed, and while others might have cried tears of joy and hugged her friends afterwards, I was so surprised that I had the weirdest reaction ever. I slammed the door, and ran to my car, where my mother was waiting to take us to our house to freshen up and get dressed before dinner.
Looking back now, I realized that I reacted that way because I didn’t know how to react or what to say. It’s the same thing with opening gifts, especially if you do not really like what’s given to you. For me though, I’ve always minded my manners, as I just love the idea and act itself of receiving presents.
Some past birthday parties sometimes didn’t go as planned, especially when I haven’t managed my expectations and emotions well enough beforehand. There are also times when I am just too preoccupied and worried about others having a good time that I end up forgetting to just enjoy the party itself and enjoy the company of the people who came. There are other times in which I just do not react well to a situation or maybe a word that was said that resulted with me in tears, disappointed, or in an argument with someone. I’ve had a melt down once in which I fled to one of the rooms of my house and cried; and I do remember that after one birthday party I had when I was a kid, I was no longer friends with someone I considered a best friend due to an argument we had during my birthday party.
Unlike others, I only have a handful of close friends; I am not that fond of the usual party and drinking games that most people today indulge in; and usually, by midnight, I am already very exhausted.
However, over the years, despite the fact that I still do worry about the outcome of a birthday party, I’ve managed to try and mitigate it by reminding myself to try to relax and just enjoy the company of the people I’m with, and by reminding myself that it is pretty silly to compare what a successful party is truly like, as what is important is that you are celebrating it with the people who are closest to you, and those whom you love and care about.
Aside from this, I like handling the preparations of my own birthday party myself, because at least I know that there won’t be any big triggers for me that would cause in a melt down.
Another thing that gets me pretty emotional during birthdays are my worries, fears and anxieties about life itself. This, of course, is a pretty normal feeling for anyone, especially when you reach a particular age, but in my case, sometimes, it is a stark reminder of how different I am, as I know that my pacing when it comes to me developing as a person, is sometimes a little bit slower than others. However, thankfully, I have a great support system who reminds me that everyone goes at their own pace, and that it is okay if I still have to role play social situations, or practice smiling in front of the mirror, or practice putting on my make-up or practice doing simple things that I have a hard time doing due to my lack of fine motor skills, while neurotypicals don’t. After all, everyone is different, and develops into the person they will be in their own time.
I may feel like I go at a snail’s pace as compared to others, but I know deep down that I am improving, even if they are just baby steps.