Last month, my mom asked me what my plans were for my birthday.
“I get off work at 3 and then I’m headed out of town to grab a pizza and cake,” I said.
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing. It’s just pitiful you’ll be by yourself and picking up your birthday dinner.”
“Well, I don’t have any friends, so…”
And that was the end of that conversation.
I know my family isn’t the closest but that small exchange really brought home how emotionally cold we can be toward each other. She didn’t offer a sympathetic look or any word of condolence for my loneliness.
I suppose it could have been because she has a lot on her mind. My grandmother had to have another doctor’s appointment on my birthday. Another 3.5-hour drive. And maybe I’m being selfish for feeling a little neglected but I still left the room feeling like the various hints at hurt I give her go ignored.
It wasn’t the first time I’d given her a heads up on my heart. It’s hard in general for me to open up to her because any time I do, she criticizes me, makes it seem as if my feelings are invalid. So instead of outright letting her know how I feel, I wait for her to initiate an inquiry into my feelings or I’ll throw out a random comment on my discontentment and see if she responds. She never does.
I woke up on my birthday (three weeks ago) and had to get ready for work. The work day was kind of long but fortunately, I didn’t have too many rude customers or any complications. The lunch was catered and we were allowed to wear tacky Christmas sweaters and jeans so I was well-fed and comfortable.
I got off work and went home to open up my birthday cards. I was tired and didn’t want to go out of town but my favorite pizza place is located out of town. I’d been dieting and exercising and had done so well and I wait all year long to eat this pizza. It’s so good that I only want to have it on my birthday to make both the pizza and my birthday all the more special. God, what a loser, eh? So, despite my fatigue, I freshened up and got back on the road.
I thought about finding a place to sit and write once I got into the city. I don’t go out of town often and when I do, I want to explore, to visit the various shops and find a nice, chill place to write. The change of atmosphere really helps boost my creativity and productivity. The problem with that is I was tired and just wanted to pick up my pizza and go back home. It was already dark by the time I reached the pizza place and when I factored in the writing time, pizza eating time, picking up my cake, and the long-ish drive back home, it would be well past midnight before I made it back to my bed.
I thought about writing at the pizza place. That way I could eat the pizza fresh and get in some writing time but when I pulled into the parking lot, the place was packed. I knew I didn’t want to be the sole stranger surrounded by friends and family. Especially not on my birthday, especially when it would have been nice to be surrounded by my own friends and family. So, scratched the writing plan, grabbed the pizza and ate a slice in my car before it got cold.
As I chewed, I checked Facebook and saw others celebrating their birthdays and early Christmases with loved ones. One friend has a birthday two days before mine. She got engaged on her birthday. Another friend has a birthday two days after mine. Her friends surprised her with a trip to Tennessee. And I was stuck alone in a parking lot eating pizza by myself. And it seems I always run into these kind of predicaments on my birthday.
Again, it goes back to the “no friends” thing. I mean, I do have people to talk to but I don’t have access to physical bodies who I can physically hang out with and physically eat pizza with and see their smiles and hear their laughter when I tell a joke. It’s nice to have that real-time, flesh and blood experience.
I got full off the pizza but I was still left feeling a little empty. The night got darker and colder and I was already tired so I decided to go grab my birthday cake and head home.
I got to the supermarket and asked the girl to write “Happy Birthday Brannon” on the cake I selected. The cake writing was decent enough and as I thanked her, I tried to ignore the fact that I had to get my own birthday dinner and dessert. But my mom was busy getting an update on my grandmother’s nose and I wasn’t convinced my dad even knew it was my birthday. There was simply no one else to do it.
It still hasn’t absorbed that I’m thirty now. But there are times when the realization almost squeezes its way into my mind and for a second, I am shot into outer space and suspended there, my eyes pried open to the realization that I am no longer a twenty-something. I quickly fall back to Earth and swat away the gravity of the situation. I do what I always do when I get upset. I ignore. I don’t think about it. I tell myself I will deal with it later while shoving it further and further down. I never have any intention of actually going back and working it out. I just hope it goes away. It never goes away.
Turning thirty doesn’t bother me. Turning thirty and having nothing to show for it bothers me. I understand that we all have to follow our own path and figure ourselves out in our own time but I can’t help but to compare myself to others, can’t help but to think I should at least be further along than I am. I’m still stuck in adolescence, still pining for that first special someone, still hoping for a group of friends to belong to, still wishing for my own apartment, still working the same crummy job I had when I was an adolescent, still pushing down the same depression. Still waiting to feel special on my birthday.