Another year has flown by. On the wrong side of 20s now, I really feel no difference, except for the fact that I'm setting goals now. I set some vague ones last year, and achieved them, and probably made some of the most important decisions of my life. My goals have numbers attached to them this year. 2012 is the year of execution.
Not a lot has changed about me. I still laugh out loud with the force of my life like I've never known what pain is. I count my blessings everyday and don't feel like I'm missing anything, or anyone. People come, and people go. Change is the only constant.
My birthdays are funny. I get calls from the most random people, the kind that you would NEVER expect to hear from. On the other hand, some of the people closest to me forget to even text. I guess my closest friends are a lot like me. The official story is that after a few years of birthday celebrations after I was born, my grandmother apparently banned all such festivities in the house, calling them anti-Islamic.
Words uttered by the elderly in the name of Islam often become religion for the younger ones in our society without any research. My case was no different. I was taught that birthdays are nothing, and mean nothing. In fact, I was taught that one should be sad on birthdays because death is a year closer. I found this to be somewhat pessimistic but given the liberty of thought I had back then, I had pretty much no choice but to happily accept that not celebrating birthdays will help me go to heaven. My brothers still believe that. They're mostly around when the clock hits 12 am on the 26th of January, but you won't hear them say "Happy Birthday!" because a molvi sahab taught them to maintain distance from such blasphemous expressions of happiness.
So, I've been programmed to ignore birthdays. And even though I now have the courage and freedom to openly reject the idea of birthdays being anti-Islamic, I've been hardwired to treat them as "normal" days in people's lives, nothing to be too excited about. While it's true that Islam is not based on commemorating people's birthdays or deaths, I see no harm in being happy or making someone's day on their birthday as long as it's not done in the name of religion (ref: "Eid" Milad-un-Nabi. There's no such Eid, really). So, I attend birthday parties and have a blast, I'm always happy when people celebrate mine, but I don't mind if someone forgets to wish me. I don't love birthdays enough. Not mine, not others'. Similarly, I subconsciously expect people to understand if I forget to wish them, or don't give their birthday enough importance. It's not personal, it's just the way I've been brought up. Maybe it's my subconscious attempt to maintain a balance, to not make a big deal out of birthdays because I don't even get a whole set of wishes from my own family.
The last few years have been a little different though. I get way too much attention, and a lot more wishes than I expect, with the occasional celebration with friends, sometimes more than once, and it seems to grow in intensity every year. It freaks me out to be honest. On occasions, I've ended up turning my phone off for the fear of getting too many calls and texts. It reminds me of the polarization in my house. It's better to get no wishes at all than to receive hundreds of messages from people in a matter of minutes and watch your own family members walk by, acting like it's business as usual. I can't think of anything else that alienates me from myself more.
My mom is my savior though. She's the pacifier. She celebrates my birthday every year, and this time, has celebrated my "birthday week"! It's also my parents' wedding anniversary, so it's a special day for us. And no matter who chooses to ignore this occasion, I'll be celebrating whenever I can and with whoever I can.