I’m not good with my birthday.
Other people’s birthdays – absolutely. I am there for all your birthday cake making, present wrapping, champagne/whisky drinking needs. I can sing, dance, and cheer with the best of them.
But my own birthday is none of those things.
My birthday is best spent curled on the couch pretending it doesn’t exist. Last year, I went out for breakfast with friends and danced to Eurovision and the Irish election in my living room. That was the best birthday I’d had in years….
I suffer from birthday ennui.
For some reason, the onset of turning another year older brings out every neuroses I have about what I’ve accomplished. And it’s never ever ever enough.
Of course it’s also not realistic, at all. Neuroses rarely is.
I know this.
Intellectually, I know this.
Emotionally, I wonder why I haven’t found a secure job, bought a little apartment with space for Laks, turned my phd into the pop-soc book idea I have in my head, gone overseas not-for-work, met a wonderful partner, read the pile of books I keep on buying, and learned how to make a proper poached egg.
Before, I also included writing a novella but I finished it earlier this year so now it’s become about editing it, submitting it, trying to get it published.
The point of the Birthday Ennui Monster is that it entirely ignores everything I’ve ever achieved: the things I’ve finished, the words I’ve written, the incredible people and animals in my life, my ability to make a home anywhere in the world, the fact that I’ve had people help me move house for my quadruple chocolate cake because it really is that good.
That’s not the point of the Monster at all.
As much as I fight it and dissect it and rage against it, birthday ennui is grounded in the fact that my life is not traditional – although lord knows what that means anymore. My life does not look like the life many others my age have – that I thought I’d have at this age – that I grew up being told was the life worth having. It looks like my life and I’m immensely proud of it but – sometimes in the middle of the night when it is dark and I realise how far away I am from all the animals and people I love – sometimes I wish it were a little more…certain.
Sometimes I wish there was more opportunity to be still, to think about things and to create, because these get lost in the need to always write applications for new jobs, to move and shift when work requires, to say yes, to keep on churning out whatever deadline is next. In always starting again, I’m not sure I’ve ever had any proper endings.
I’ve been talking to friends about this – how uncertainty leads us into circular conversations we keep on repeating. Our plans for the future have shifted in searches for stability. In the work contracts we hope for: although stability now is found in 2 or 3 year contracts, not a permanent job, that feels like too much a dream. But stability also in who we work with – people who we can trust with drafts of ideas and who will give us time to think something through when there is time available.
It’s this precious thing – time. A privileged thing. And the jobs and people who offer it feel akin to finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
The Birthday Ennui Monster goes away after a few days – after I’ve worked through the impossibility of achieving everything ever and written lists to help bring focus on the things that are achievable. The Monster brings spotlight to what I want to do in the coming year. These are all good things in the end. I just wish the Birthday Ennui Monster would also think to bring cake.