There’s a whole stack of reasons. Mine comes a week after the marketing onslaught that is Valentine’s day, which for a single person is the equivalent of being repeatedly kicked in the teeth and told how worthless you are to society. And circumstances have dictated that I have been single on every Valentine’s day in my life. So by the time the birthday rolls around, I am already at a low point.
There’s also the mortality factor, where pensive, introspective individuals like myself see birthdays as another marker towards old age, our childhoods receding into the distance. No amount of reassurances from older colleagues that I’m still (very) young seem to soothe the sensation that old age is creeping up.
It’s also a time for (utterly) irrational reflections on the past year – what have I done this year, how closer am I to my goals, am I happier, more enlightened. The default answer is no, but this is clearly stupid. In the last year I’ve passed the halfway point of one of the hardest graduate degree programs in the world, worked with leading organisations in the arts sector, set foot on 5 of the 7 continents of the world (sorry Africa and Antarctica), met many new and wonderful friends, and spent time with old ones. True, there have been a lot of tough moments, but this shouldn’t detract.
And yet, despite all rational thought, the impending birthday tends to get me down.
This year’s birthday was a chaotic birthday, where best laid plans were cast aside to deal with immediate issues. The original plan was a quiet morning at my internship, a lazy lunch by myself at a nice restaurant, a quiet afternoon, then a few celebratory drinks with fellow students.
Needless to say that this did not happen. It ended up being all day at the internship working furiously to meet last-minute deadlines, a rushed (but tasty) lunch at a nice restaurant, then a couple of cheap beers at a networking event with fellow students.
I got home late, tired and broken, to find hundreds of messages wishing me a happy birthday.
Staying up late at my computer, going through messages and writing thankyous to each person should have been tedium. But it wasn’t. Every message was heartfelt and satisfying, and writing each reply filled me with a sense of gratitude to all the great people that I know, even if I don’t get to see them very often.
Thanks for all the kind words and thoughts. It has been a tumultuous and crazy year, but I wouldn’t have gotten through it without you all.
There’s still a way to go with the craziness. The next two weeks are the final two of this term, with final projects, assignments, and exams to be taken. It’s going to be brutal.
However afterwards, there’ll hopefully be a chance to finish the last of these and maybe celebrate a little…