I turn 20 this week, finally out of my teens, and I should be beyond excited. Instead, because of the obvious pandemic and its effects on normal life, I’m separated from the people and places I cherish most, stuck inside the house. Turning 20 years old is a big milestone in my book, and I’m almost dreading the day because I know my dad, who passed away almost five years ago, won’t be here to see it. Spending a birthday in social isolation isn’t optimal for anyone, but in light of both recent and past events the way I feel about my birthday has changed from that of excitement to melancholy.
Since my birthday falls near the end of the school year I have gone to school on almost every single one of my birthdays throughout my life. Every year on my birthday the weather was warm and filled with excitement for summer and the end of the school year, which only heightened my love for my birthday. This excitement didn’t change when I went to college; I still loved going to class and seeing my friends, especially learning how to celebrate myself while being independent. But now because of the coronavirus, I’m unable to do either of those things. There are no friends to see, no classes to attend and no one is excited for summer because there’s no guarantee that we’ll have a normal summer.
I think a common feeling nowadays is that of indifference. Days go by without change, to the point where we start to lose track and the days begin to blend together, creating a cycle of waking up and going to sleep that never ends. If the weather is bad or if you have a bad hair day, who cares? Nothing really matters anymore and nothing is the same, and we’ve all sort of accepted that at this point. It’s because of this indifference that I question the point of celebrating my birthday anymore, but even more I question the point of it because of how insensitive it seems. An unspeakable number of lives have been lost to the coronavirus globally, so why should we be celebrating during a time of mourning? That just doesn’t sit well with me.
Recently my mind has been flooded with thoughts about my dad and I’ve been recounting all of the other milestones he’s missed out on: my 16th birthday, getting my driver’s license, my 18th birthday, getting into college, graduating high school and so many more. Even though I know he’s out there somewhere, it’s hard to be excited for such a special day when I know he won’t be here to spend it with me. While I’m thankful for everything I have and the life that I live, I will always feel like I’m missing something, and a part of me that will always wonder what it could have been like if things were different. In complete honesty, the only gift I want this year is to wake up, find my dad in his usual spot on the couch and give him a hug. Maybe we could eat some breakfast together too if it isn’t too much to ask.
It’s been hard to come to terms with my dad’s death and to understand that there are going to be many milestones he won’t be here to witness, and I have to be OK with that. I’ve always been so jealous of my friends who get to spend their birthdays with both of the parents who gave them life, but I’ve learned to accept the situation in which I’m in. Grief is one of the hardest, wildest things I’ve ever experienced and it can only be compared to a rollercoaster. I was climbing steadily until I found out about my dad’s passing, and then I dropped to what felt like a million miles below the Earth’s surface. It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve finally made my way out of the depths of the Earth and now I coast just above the trees, enjoying the wind on my face but wishing my dad were in the seat next to me. Although there have been times of great heights, I always tend to fall when I reach another milestone, such as the one coming up this week. Because of everything going on right now, I’m not sure how to feel about my birthday. It almost feels silly to celebrate myself when death and global pandemics exist, but I know that’s not what my dad would want. Even though I’m finding myself on another downward drop on the rollercoaster of grief, I know that my dad is watching over me, lifting me up every now and then to make sure I don’t fall too far. So happy birthday to me, although I don’t know if I would say happy, more like mediocre.