Tag Archives: Nostalgia

Birthdays Suck: Part Two

Now that the first part post is finished, posted, and part of history I can move onto the real cerebral reasons as to why birthdays fucking suck. In case you didn’t read part one it was basically me bitching about how bad my birthday was just because it was a generally shitty day. Any day that went the way it did would suck, it just happened to also be my birthday. I was tired, insomnia-and-anxiety-stricken, felt like an ex-coke head (I imagine), and was all-around miserable. Now onto the actual reasons for birthdays sucking.

The first thing to complain about is the arbitrariness of celebrating a year of life. If you get down to it we could celebrate every day (or week, or month, or whatever) we’re alive but that would lead us to unnecessarily high numbers rather quickly. For example I’m apparently 12,058ish days old, but that number doesn’t mean very much because it doesn’t give you any reference frame to compare it to. We all know what a year is so when you say someone is 25-years-old you have a good idea what it means. An 9-year-old might be is likely an immature brat while a 90-year-old is likely frail as fuck and about to die. A year makes good enough sense and I don’t know what else we could use to measure age. But where does a year come from anyways?

Age is just counting how many orbits you’ve personally made around the sun after you appeared outside your mom. A year makes intuitive sense with seasons and stuff like that, but when you think of it as “laps completed around the sun” it seems rather strange. Think of most of our laws that are age-based: you can’t drink alcohol unless you’ve orbited the sun 21 times. You can’t vote for our country’s leaders until you’ve done 18 laps around the sun. And if you’ve orbited the sun 67 times you don’t need to work anymore.

A key gripe here is that laps around the sun doesn’t equate to actual knowledge, wisdom, or anything important really. Some ten-year-olds could probably operate a car as well as an adult, and some adults shouldn’t be allowed to vote or drink no matter how old they are. I don’t know how we would set an age for “wisdom” and have it actually mean anything, but ideally it would be a better measurement than solar orbits. A 25-year-old could be a successful millionaire or a heroin addict and the only similarity these people would share is the fact that they’ve orbited the sun 25 times. This just further makes the idea of a birthday seem kinda meh as age itself is a poor “progress of life” counter or whatever. 

Also the fact that we celebrate the day we came out of our mom’s vagina seems kinda…strange when you word it that way. Obviously this exempts people who were born via c-section but even that is celebrating the day you were cut out of your mom’s womb. I mean it makes sense to use that as the “starting point” of your life, but it’s also kinda strange. You could also use the point of conception as your “birthday” I suppose, and I’m kinda surprised that pro-lifers haven’t jumped on that idea yet. I mean I did exist in some form 8 months before I was actually born. (Getting all deep and shit I’ve existed — my atoms at least — since the universe began. Woah. mind-blown.gif) By giving you a “birthday” on the day you were conceived you’d seem more an actual person than “a fetus” would; this would play right into the “life begins at conception” idea. (Really if they take up that idea and actually go with it I’ll be really upset. Like I was joking guys don’t take it seriously.)

Outside of all that bullshit, birthdays also suck because I’m an adult. I just turned 33 (in case you didn’t want to do the math with my age in days earlier) and anyone within ten years of 33 will know that it’s not an important birthday by any stretch of the imagination. 33 is an age where nothing actually happens while the closest “special” birthday is 30, followed by 40. But the 40-year birthday is going to be a ton more dismal than 30 was. I got seven years to go and I already know that fact. But before that? 21. Because you can drink at 21.

We all know birthdays are cool as a kid, and to a lesser extent as a teenager, mostly because you get shit you want. As a kid you are showered in toys and birthdays/Christmases are great opportunities to get the things you want. This is especially important given your paltry $10/week allowance that makes it impossible to get the really good shit you want. These gifts gave you something to look forward to on your birthday and made the day special. As you age these gifts magically disappear and the day becomes a mundane affair.

Teenagers get the “gift” of knowing they’re making progress through life: at 13 you’re finally a teenager, at 15 (in Illinois at least) you can get a driver’s learning permit, at 16 you can get an actual license, at 17 you can go see rated-R movies (Not a big deal. The shitty teenager birthdays are 14, 17, and 19.), and at 18 you’re an actual fucking adult! The “progress factor” of your birthday quickly tapers after that. At 20, well, you’re 20, and at 21 you can drink. That’s it. At 24 (I think) you finally get booted off your parents insurance if you’re attending college so no one cares about that, and at 25 you can run for congressional office (yay!). Then 30, 40, 50…blah blah.

Even if teenagers might not get really cool gifts and experience the fun that birthdays as a kid used to hold, they still get to feel like they’re getting somewhere in life. Hell, even senior citizens sort of get this “birthday glory” back as they can look forward to retirement age or getting fucking senior discounts at restaurants and shit. Somehow I don’t think I will be very enthusiastic about that crap when I’m that age (if I’m alive). Also your impending death kinda puts a damper on things for you.

Remember when I mentioned something about “progress in life?” Well, for me at least, that’s a major downside for birthdays. Birthdays give me that “looking back on life” thing that New Year’s usually does to me (and the 4th of July as well…) and I don’t know if it’s me or if everyone deals with it. It definitely gets worse as you get older as well. As you get a year older on your birthday it becomes a perfect time to process that you are in fact a year older and that, well, you’re getting older. It’s natural to look back at all the time and think of what you’ve accomplished, or in my case, what I haven’t accomplished.

I remember leaving high school and knowing that I was only 18 and that I had plenty of time to actually do something with my life. The day I graduated I went to my grandma’s and planted grass. A day as notable as graduating high school was capped off by quaintly planting grass in the afternoon with no thought given to my future. At my 30th birthday I really realized that “hey, I haven’t done a fucking thing yet. What am I doing?” and I resolved to actually get off my ass and do something, but progress has been slow.

My supervisor pointed out that some people accomplish their life’s work at a late age. Late-bloomers and all. Charles Darwin was near 50 when he published his landmark book on evolution so compared with him I still have 17 years to do my thing. I don’t like that mindset though because it seems easy to use as a crutch to justify not doing anything to myself. It’s the same “I got time” mindset that ended up wasting most of my 20s. I think I need the self-loathing and anxiety that birthdays bring to keep me moving forward, even if the self-loathing is pretty shitty.

This is almost made worse by well-meaning family members who want to see me have an amazing birthday. This creates a dichotomy where people are being very enthusiastic and joyful about my birthday where I’m just feeling like shit about it. It almost makes it worse because if all of these people are happy about my birthday, why the hell aren’t I? I just makes me hate myself more because I’m feeling shitty about getting older and not doing anything with my life while everyone else is yelling at me to be happy because it’s my birthday! Blow out the candles and make a wish!

I don’t know if other people feel the pressure of time on their birthday, but for me it is inseparable from the day itself. Any fun, positivity, and celebration is always outweighed by my constant looking back/forward and it makes the day depressing no matter what happens. It’s one of those things I wish I could shut off but it has been lingering around for every birthday and New Year that I’ve since being a teenager. This sucks because the idea of a single day being your birthday when you “turn a year older” is silly as time is constantly moving forward; there isn’t really one day that you age but this day still drags me down and makes me feel like shit about my life. Couple this with the fact that birthdays are generally bland and pointless when you’re in your late 20s and 30s (and onward I’m assuming) makes any upcoming birthday something to dread and avoid. Like I want to shut my phone off and deactivate my Facebook page until it’s over in an attempt to make the day as normal as possible. It’s like a storm to hide from or something. So yeah, birthdays suck.

The New Year Sucks Part Two: The Nostalgia of New Beginnings

Back when I was younger (and stupider) I always found myself sitting around on December 31st with either a piece of paper or a Google doc writing and reminiscing on how the year went and reflecting on all of the shit that had happened. This would inevitably run into dreaming about The New Year and wondering what the next 365 days would bring. I have suspicion that many — if not most — of us do this and while I never really told anyone about this habit or asked others if they do it, I’m sure I’m not alone.

On a very superficial level many people like to party and celebrate the new year, which as you can probably tell from my first post I think is stupid because it’s so arbitrary. I’d be all up for having a celebration at the solstices or equinoxes (like dancing around a campfire on the first day of spring or some shit) but outside of pagans, witches, and astronomers (maybe?) no one actually does this. If anything the news just blurts out something like “It’s the first day of summer, and the weather is nice!” while maybe mentioning that it’s the longest day of the year. Ya know, by the way. But The New Year is a big circle jerk of partying, drinking, kissing, and watching some fucking ball in New York “fall”. This is if you have an “ideal” life; if you’re single, miserable, and/or depressed the holidays in general just make you want to kill yourself or hide in a closet for a month. After any intense year-end partying I just can’t help but ask myself “Okay. So…now what?” The whole thing feels pointless and hollow. Like at the end of the day you wake up in The New Year: Day One with the worst hangover you’ve ever had and smelling like expired pizza and sweat. Happy New Year!

Failed Goals

People also like to use The New Year as a start for various goals and self-improvement plans they set for themselves. These are usually referred to as “New Year’s Resolutions” and have a horrible failure rate. At the very least this should prevent people from starting any goals on New Year’s Day; why start a goal if it will have a 55% chance of success after only a month! Like if you set two resolutions for yourself, only one will succeed on average; if you start a diet and stop drinking for New Years you’ll either be eating a doughnut or drinking a six-pack on February 1st. Maybe even both. The rate of success also becomes worse with time. After two years only 19% still followed their resolutions — higher than I would’ve guessed — but still dismal. If you started a diet you most likely would’ve fucked up between a month and two years. It was a good run but in the end you still failed at your goal.

I attribute these failure to various things, but the most obvious reason I can think of is that New Year’s Day is a terrible time to try the typical shit people like to set for their resolutions. Think dieting, losing weight, exercising, starting (and maintaining) a hobby, being a “better person,” and whatever else. This is mostly because New Years occurs near the start/middle of winter and immediately after the holidays. How is this not setting up for instant failure?

Let’s say you want to exercise like maybe run a marathon or something by summer. Well, January 1st is likely cold and shitty so why would you want to force yourself outside to run when it won’t get warmer for another two months? You might be able to get out and run a mile or so, but this isn’t the situation that actually favors sticking with it. Even if you keep with the goal of training for a marathon, running a few miles every few days isn’t going to help much in the long run. It makes more sense to wait until the season improves a bit and then hitting running in a hard but sustainable way.

What about dieting? You just came from stuffing your fat face all holiday season and a week later you’re all of a sudden going to eat vegetables and fruit? Cut your calories in half in a day? It could work but it seems like the worst time ever to start an actual diet that you can stick with.

What about not drinking? The holiday season has probably been so stressful that you’ve been hang onto reality bottle by bottle but then have to cut the cord right immediately after? Good luck…especially when your first day sober is you waking up after a YOLO-final-New Year-drinking-party with a terrible hangover and craving another shot of vodka just to make the headaches, spinning, and the shaking stop for awhile.

Any sort of these motivational, self-improvement goals also have one primary thing in common: motivation. You can’t just do your goal: it takes drive, dedication, hard work, and persistence. Once again, the cold darkness that is early January isn’t conductive for any of this especially in regards to some goal you set for yourself in a make-or-break attempt to make progress. You’re putting it all on the line with a hard start date at a time where your motivation is likely total shit and waning. Pile on multiple goals and you’re left grasping for any sort of willpower you can find. And January isn’t helping any of it.

Then again maybe all of this is just a problem for me.

The Nostalgia of it All

In the end, all of this hating on the practical downsides to resolutions are nothing with the whole naive “starting over” aspect of it all. Remember when I was talking about my little journal entries on December 31st? And how every year I’d reflect on things and while I wouldn’t set hard resolutions I would try to pick a direction for the year: how to improve on things, what large ideas and goals to keep in mind, what sort of person I should be, so-on-and-so-forth, etc. It always seems so nostalgic to sit and write and dream about a whole new 365 days where you can start over and I still find myself wanting to do such a thing.

The truth is I recently went back and read some of these entries and they’re cringeworthy at best and depressing at worst. Any sort of lofty goal I’ve had like “helping the family achieve their goals,” “investing more in ETFs,” “do something with my life,” or “day-trade cryptocurrencies” have fallen totally flat on their fucking faces in the course of just a few months. Is this my fault or the fault of the entire idea of “starting over?” I don’t know, although it could be both.

Everything seems so clear from the year-ending perspective. You can see how the year has been, what your mistakes were, and what you could’ve changed. You realize how you didn’t spend the summer outdoors enough, or you didn’t garden as much as you wanted, or whatever and you regret it. But this is all in hindsight and in the actual moment you “screwed up” you never had that hindsight perspective and clarity. When you could’ve been outside gardening or biking you decided instead to sit inside and play video games, but that was your reality and you made the best choice you could at the time. It’s only by looking back you’ve seen how you “screwed up.”

Looking forward also offers this messed up vision, but this time it’s based on vague hopes for the year. While hindsight is 20/20 the future is always rosy, dream-like, and successful. Even if you fucked up in 2018, 2019 will surely be different because, well, it’s in the future and you can construct as rosy of a picture of your year as you want. Even if you end up filing for bankruptcy or losing a loved one in 2019, you don’t know this on January 1st so obviously 2019 will be a landmark year of happiness and success for you. In short, no one realizes how much of a challenge the next 365 days will be and we always imagine the best possible outcome.

Hency my newfound hatred for looking backwards/forwards during the New Year. When you look back you seen how much a struggle it has been and see all your mistakes in perfect hindsight clarity. When you look forward you see a clean slate that will probably end up as much as a struggle as the last year where you make the same stupid hindsight-obvious mistakes that you always end up making. When I’d read my past entries regarding The New Year, I always see this nostalgic vision I put forward into the past and the hope I put into the future; it never seems to arrive. Each New Year is just as bittersweet as the last — if not more — because it’s the same shit all over as it’s always been. Determination, hope, mistakes, reflection, regret. Then determination, hope, mistakes, reflecti……….

The New Year Fucking Sucks.