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Reflections On Another Birthday

I am a huge believer in birthday celebrations.

Not necessarily in celebrating the increment of another year in age: I have a weird relationship with time, and the significance of age is frankly kind of lost on me (it runs in the family — on my most recent trip home, Mom declared that she doesn’t plan on getting old anytime soon, maybe not ever). I mean, I don’t see anything wrong with that, and it works for a lot of people.

For me, though, it boils down to this: for a long time in my life, I just didn’t think that I was going to make it.  I didn’t expect to make it through high school, and then I didn’t expect to make it through those few harrowing years after, and then I guess a part of me didn’t expect to make it through college, because that feeling runs deep.  But here I am, almost a graduate, a little behind schedule but basically no worse for the wear.

So, basically, at some point, every single birthday became an exercise in thrilling gratitude and wild triumph: Oh my G-d, I made it!

I made it!

I made it.

That my birthday falls in February — the most-unloved month; literally “the month of fevers,” thanks, Numa Pompilius — probably adds some zest to the cake.   There’s no better time for a day of wild gratitude than smack dab in the middle of the greyest, coldest, most miserable month in the Northern Hemisphere (to be fair, I liked February in the Northeast: a month of sparkling snow and soul-clutching cold).

And then it turns out that the word “February” might actually be derived not from “the month of fevers,” but from “the month of purification”  — and that adds a whole extra layer of meaning; a moment of reprieve in the cold, purifying fire of mid-winter depression.

And then this year rolled up, and I found myself less thrilled than usual about the prospect of my upcoming birthday, and that bummed me out.

Only just now I realized: it’s less poignant because this has probably been the first year since I was thirteen that I’ve felt like, Yeah, I think I might make it, barring disasters.

And having realized that — wow.   Just wow.   I should be able to eloquently express how immense that is, but I can’t.  It is literally breathtaking, not least because it happened so casually, like, when I wasn’t even looking.  And that’s a kind of loss, in a way, but Holy G-d, what an amazing loss!

So break out the cymbals and the drums after all: this is still, for me, a magic day.  Still a day on which I can look back and say, I made it — but also one on which, at least for now, I can look ahead and say, I think I’m going to keep on making it.

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