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Do Birthdays get a Bad Rap?


Remember being young and counting down the sleeps until your big day when you were finally an entire year older? Those were great days. I don’t see much of that anymore, and I’m guilty of it too, but now I have two beautiful little girls counting down the sleeps for me, so I’m excited again. It’s two more sleeps until my birthday. I was thinking about all of the reasons why my birthday no longer excites me and I think I may have given it a bum rap, and here’s why:

Since high school I had my life planned out, as a lot of young people do. We have our ideas about how life will look for us and many of us choose our paths according to what those ideas will eventually manifest themselves as. Now, I didn’t do the follow through on this. I knew what I wanted, but I was not even close to being disciplined enough to stay the course on a few things. I don’t regret that part, my deviations to my plans opened up a world I never dreamed possible and brought me places that probably wouldn’t have landed me where I am today, which is in a pretty good place. But, there are still those lingering doubts, what if I had stayed the course. What would my life look like now if I had done everything I had set out to do when I was still green behind the ears? And I’m certain I’m not the only one, so I asked a few people why they dread the upcoming birthday, and this is what they told me:


“I’m going to be forty-four next month. When I was thirty I swore that I was going to have three books published by forty, that hasn’t happened. My time is devoted to working nights to pay off a mortgage in a house that we don’t spend any time in. I’m hoping to have my first book published before I die” – SJ


SJ just nailed it when he stated “before I die” because I while I think it’s great to give ourselves goals to look towards and work towards, sometimes when we fall short of some of those goals, we get really down on ourselves. SJ just freed himself up when he let go of the fact that he MUST have those books published four years ago. I have complete faith that he will do it, and so does he, but beating himself up for not doing it when he stated he was going to (14 years ago) isn’t entirely helpful to his esteem.


I spoke with another friend who is about to turn 37 this month and these were his thoughts about his birthday:


“I’m going to be 37 years old. I shouldn’t be in so much debt. Most 37 year olds have left North America, this is not where I saw my life headed.” – EA


When we compare ourselves to others that’s a recipe for disaster right there. No two people are alike, and no one knows what goes on behind closed doors. It’s never a good idea to measure you against someone else. If something in your life seems out of balance, work to remedy that yourself, not by looking to duplicate someone else’s life.



Our time here flashes by very quickly and with each birthday we are reminded of this, maybe not all of us, and maybe it’s not glaringly obvious, but for some of us somewhere in the back of our mind is a little voice reminding us of our mortality. It’s wonderful to set goals and plan our lives, but we must remember that life does not always go according to plan, and that’s okay.

I had the pleasure of speaking with many of my residents on their birthdays and I know I will misquote this, but the gist of what he said went a little something like this:

“I’m well passed the half-way point now, and I’m fine with that. I’ve had a good life and I’ve done many things. I only when I’m gone the people I love know how much I love them. I’m not afraid of dying, but I am afraid of people wasting the life they have.” – Mr. X

Mr. X lived to be 98 years old and he died peacefully in his sleep surrounded by generations of his family who loved and adored him.

While I contemplate my blessings it seems almost silly that I would dread another birthday, so instead I’m going to leave you with a few inspiring quotes from some pretty smart people,and then I’m going to celebrate the fact that I am lucky enough to be celebrating another birthday. I’m also going to take some serious consideration of these quotes; these souls knew exactly what they were talking about.

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”
― Sophia Loren

“When you’re young, you always feel that life hasn’t yet begun—that “life” is always scheduled to begin next week, next month, next year, after the holidays—whenever. But then suddenly you’re old and the scheduled life didn’t arrive. You find yourself asking, ‘Well then, exactly what was it I was having—that interlude—the scrambly madness—all that time I had before?”
― Douglas Coupland

“To all, I would say how mistaken they are when they think that they stop falling in love when they grow old, without knowing that they grow old when they stop falling in love.”
― Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez


It’s actually quite normal for a lot of us to grieve our birthdays when we feel that we haven’t accomplished everything we have set out to do. But, remember when birthdays were a time of celebration? Let’s try to get back to that. Grieving the loss of youth seems to me to be counterproductive a bit, and I’m going to make an effort to stop this. Most of us go out of our way to celebrate our friends and our children and the people we love, why not celebrate ourselves as well? Your birth was a celebration, so is your birthday.

It’s up to you how you choose to celebrate or not celebrate getting older. My life didn’t turn out the cookie cutter way I had planned, and that’s okay, it’s actually much better. And, hey you never stop growing; you’re never too old to make a change. Happy Birthday to all of you out there celebrating yours (even if you’re keeping it a secret) I wish you well.









Do Birthdays get a Bad Rap?

Nicole Lyons

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APA Reference
Lyons, N. (2015). Do Birthdays get a Bad Rap?. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 3 Oct 2015
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