Yesterday, September 22, was my 28th birthday.
Most people celebrate their birthdays. I, however, dread mine as it rolls around.
You see, I don't have a very high esteem of myself, and as a result, don't feel like I'm worth celebrating. Also, I try very hard not o be a selfish person, and instead hate being the center of attention. Plus, I've been through a lot over the past twelve months, and celebrating a birthday reminds me about the fact that I almost didn't have a 27th birthday, something that was quite traumatizing and I still have a very difficult time dealing with.
But let me back up a little and tell you about my day yesterday.
I woke up at 5:15, per my usual routine and went downstairs to have my coffee while reading on the couch. By 6:15, my boys came downstairs and peeked around the corner, running to me yelling happy birthday. My wife came in and kissed me, surprising me with a new sweater, a book about explorers that I can use in my Advanced Placement World History class, and tickets to Disney On Ice, something I've never experienced.
I came to school to get some grading and planning done before my high schoolers showed up, and my phone rang. It was my daughter, calling to sing me happy birthday as she was driving to school. She felt bad that she'd overslept and wasn't able to celebrate with me before I left for school.
My school day was rather unremarkable. I was supposed to meet my wife for Mexican food after school before picking up the boys from school, but a last-minute staff meeting was called and our dinner plans fell through. My daughter's tennis match, which was out of town, was cancelled, freeing up her evening. Finding out that I was going to be spending most of my evening alone due to my wife's school open house, she cancelled all plans with friends and came home to spend time with her brothers and I.
I took the kids out for McDonalds and then to walk around Target, spending a half hour trying on Halloween costumes and being silly with them.
After the kids were in bed, my wife and I lay in bed and watched New Girl. I realized I was disappointed that, while I was able to spend time with the kids last night, my birthday was nothing remarkable or special, nothing that was any different really from the other 364 days of the year. I was pretty disappointed.
When I woke up this morning, I got into the shower, looking forward to going downstairs to drink my coffee and read my book. As I came out of the bathroom, my wife was already up and had a set of suitcases on the bed. I was very confused.
You see, after having the kids for a year and a half, my wife haven't really had a chance to get away to spend time alone, her and I. We've had a hard time justifying alone time with the separation anxiety our boys have. She explained to me that she's taking me away for three days, to come home on Sunday, leaving the kids with our close friends.
My mind and emotions shut down. I didn't know how to respond.
As I drove to school and puttered around my classroom this morning, a realization hit me.
I don't need gifts. I don't need celebration or noise makers or people to make me meals and clean up the dishes.
I have a wife that knows me and my needs intimately, so much so that she planned a weekend away for the two of us to recharge from school and the craziness of parenthood.
I have an amazing teenage daughter who cares about me so much that she calls me in the morning to wish me a happy birthday and cancels all plans to spend time with her brothers and I, even if it means eating at a McDonalds and goofing with us at Target.
I have two boys that adore me and look up to me, so much so that they were excited it was my birthday.
I have an extended family of brothers, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and close friends who care deeply for me and took the time to Facebook, text and call me to let me know they were thinking about me.
I have students who were upset with me because I didn't tell them it was my birthday so they could celebrate with me.
I have life and am finally getting back to a place of health after an incredibly difficult year.
And I have passion. I have things that I care deeply about and enjoy. I have a heart for teenagers, so much so that I'm that "crazy guy" who hangs out with them for eight hours a day, not just teaching them about "dead white guys," but spending an hour during my lunch with a student who just needs someone to talk to about the crap going on in his world. I have my love for Disney, which inspires me to be creative and innocent, to know that there is good in the world. I have my love for music, which allows me relax and contemplate the bigger things in life. I have a love of history, which helps me to realize that as awful and crazy the world is right now, that it was the same way in the 1860s and the 1960s and yet humanity came out on the other side. But most of all, I have my faith in God, that no matter what happens in my life and my world, with his help, I can get through it and understand that there is a reason for all adversity that I may face.
So it's not really a happy birthday, but a happy life day, a happy me day. Not celebrating the day, 28 years ago, that I was born, but rather celebrating who I am, the good and bad I've been through that have made me into the person that I am today.