By definition, birthdays are to be celebrated. However, more often than not, society frowns on old age. With facelifts, age-defying serums, and injections, youth is praised while maturation is muddled.
As a child, I grew up counting down the days until my annual party. The day we celebrated me. My birth. My presence in this world. Every year on the sixth of January, I reached a new age. I was a year older, and always figured, a year wiser. Friends were invited, cake was devoured, laughter commenced, and memories were made. Yet, with every twelve months that passed, celebrations began to dwindle. Balloons were no longer purchased. Cake was no longer on the menu. By my 27th birthday, I found myself in a small, local sushi restaurant with six of my immediate family members surrounding me. Somehow, "How does it feel to be older?" slipped into the conversation just like it does each January, but no "Happy Birthday" song was sung.
Before my cancer diagnosis, age equated wrinkles, aching joints, and hip replacements. Getting older was no longer a momentous occasion, simply one year closer to stepping foot inside a retirement home. "Old" was said with an underlying tone, as if it meant moldy, used, and unwanted. Why is that? Why do we view age negatively with such flippant disregard? The answer may stem from fear of the inability to be our former youthful selves. Fear that death could be closer than we care to admit. As a double-edged sword, death affects all ages. No matter how young, old, vibrant, or frail.
If you woke up this morning with breath in your lungs, you are blessed. You have survived yet another day and are officially one day older.
Since cancer has stormed into my life like an unwelcome party guest, birthdays have deeper significance than before. Receiving a cancer diagnosis often paralyzes ones thoughts about the future. We are left wondering how many more birthdays we may be here for. Will I make it to 30? Will I have grandchildren some day? Some patients on the front lines fighting off this disease are wondering if they'll live to see next week. Some questioning if they will even wake up tomorrow. As cliché as it may be, each day truly is a gift. Why then, are birthdays not celebrated as the momentous occasion that they are? Why then, are we not more-so grateful when we unwrap the gift of another day?
"I feel so old."
"I wish I was younger."
These sentiments are unfortunately expressed by many. Society shares the approach that growing older is an unfortunate occurrence. This is baffling. Growing older is a natural phenomenon. We can't escape it. It's inevitable. Therefore, it should be embraced. After all, if you are aging, you are alive.
Age should be recognized, acknowledged, and held in high esteem. Age isn't just a number. Age is the reflection of an accomplishment we have been subconsciously working for in each and every moment of our lives. The time will come when you will inhale your last breath. When experiences, adventures, and memories will be washed away in the tide of eternity.
After nearly three years in the trenches of this diagnosis and subsequent fight for my life, birthdays have become a symbol. They epitomize opportunity, growth, and life. They represent hope, gratitude, and blessings. Each morning I wake up to see another day... to create new memories... to enjoy my friends and family... to follow my passions... I am blessed. I look forward to my 80th birthday. I look forward to the many celebrations ahead. I look forward to the blessing of a new day.
I challenge you to not view age as a curse, but rather as a gift.
Photo Credit: Flickr/TheresaThompson