My friend Stella turns 29 today. I had mailed her a card and left her a "Happy Birthday" message in her Live Journal comment section, but in glancing over and bypassing her other friends' comments, I felt a rant coming on. And I didn't want to leave a rant in her comments section because it's got less to do with her birthday and her friends' good wishes as it is all-around rant.
When it comes to birthdays, people seem to have one of a few settings: Turning a new decade, or the year before, people start to freak out and react as if birthdays are traumatizing. They get all angst-ridden because "they haven't accomplished anything," but they never specifically explain what it is they are not accomplishing. Do you have a certain goal you have set for yourself and have not met? What are you going to do to go after it then? Or have you tried to cure cancer and failed? Didn't win the Nobel Prize again? Or are you living your life, finding out what makes you happy, and going after it? That is what a success is, in my mind: Figuring out what you want, what makes you happy, and then going after it.
I was relieved to turn 30. It meant I was finally becoming my own person and that I had the right to make my own decisions and not have to be accountable to anyone for why I made specific choices. I don't think that happens to most people until they start coming into their own in their mid- to late-twenties. And it was literally last year for me when I started feeling that way. Now that I'm 31 and I finally have a college degree - which is not a marker of success; I just happen to be crap at anything that doesn't require that degree - I finally feel like I can go after the rest of what I want.
The other setting seems to be that he or she who is celebrating the birthday doesn't care; it's just another birthday. Which, you know... it is. If you are going to freak out because you are turning 30, or 40, or 50, or 120... well, would you rather the alternative?