In 2016, I spent my birthday in the hospital. I had several friends and family who were kind enough to visit me, bring food and offer gifts. I am incredibly grateful for their kindness, but it was still the toughest birthday I’ve ever had, both being sick and stuck in the hospital on my birthday. I think the memory of that birthday made me grateful for birthdays spent healthy and free.
When I turned 40 4 ½ years ago, I was thrilled. This goes against the usual narrative to say the least! I was happy when I turned 40 because I had made it that far. You see, the life expectancy for transgender people is much less than for our cisgender counterparts. When I was in my late teens and early 20s, I never thought I would even live to see 40. Between bashers on the street and the constant threat of suicide that beckoned me, I didn’t know how many years I would see. So when I turned 40 it was quite an exciting milestone.
Now my greatest fear is chronic health conditions, especially depression and diabetes. I am left with the question again: how long will I live? Sometimes I like to play the parlor game with people: if you could know the exact date and time of your death, would you want to know? I would want to know because I could quit worrying about it. Since that is not an option, all I can do is take it one day at a time and try to manage my chronic health conditions and disabilities.
Should we celebrate our birthdays? Absolutely! We tend to forget that our lives are miraculous. Parent A’s sperm met Parent B’s egg and was fertilized. Then voila! We were born kicking and screaming into the world and grew like weeds for years and years. And then we live our lives as adults and get to exercise our agency to change the world and also the strength to self-actualize and fight to reach our own potentiality. So of course we should mark and celebrate the hell out of our birthdays. There is no one else like us and never will be. We are one of a kind, and our birthday represents part of our uniqueness.
The only thing to remember our birthdays is to not get your hopes up too high. The world doesn’t stop on your birthday 🙂 Sometimes we can get disappointed and even feel like if we make too big a deal of it we are bound to be let down. But planning ahead helps and putting your intentions out into the universe for the kind of birthday you want to celebrate is key. It is also more than okay to NOT make a big deal of your birthday and pass it quietly. Unlike for me, for many people getting older can be difficult in our youth-obsessed world. My hope is that people will remember every additional year they get to spend on the planet is a gift. So whether they celebrate or not, the birthday is a reminder of the miracle of life and the privilege of never having to wait another moment to change the world or change yourself.