It’s my birthday and I’ll cry if I want to…

Isn’t that how the song goes?

I’m not really crying about my birthday. In fact, I have to be careful that I don’t forget to celebrate it this coming week. Is that a bad thing?

Remember how fun birthdays were when we were kids? For me it was all about the gifts. I particularly remember my eleventh birthday…my golden birthday. My parents invited all my buddies from grade school over and I was overwhelmed with all kinds of great presents; the good stuff too. Just don’t ask me which friends were there or what we did; apparently I can only recall the gifts. I know, pretty sad!

In college, my birthday celebrations always concluded at some local establishment by the end of the evening, surrounded by roommates, friends, and anyone else we could drag along. Typically, everyone would completely forget it was my birthday after the first drink and it would become a night just like any other. That part didn’t really bother me however since I wasn’t real found of being the center of attention anyway.

One of my favorite birthday memories came a little later while I was working in student activities at Washington University in St. Louis. Somehow word got out that I liked rice crispy treats amongst my colleagues and friends. To my surprise, sitting on my desk on my birthday was a giant rice crispy treat (five separate pans of rice crispies melded into one massive, five-story monstrosity). It was a sight to be seen. Unfortunately, the outer layer had hardened so much during the design phase that not even a hammer and chisel could penetrate it. It did make for a great door stopper however.

Birthdays that ended in “0” also have stayed with me. Turning 30 was a big one. I wasn’t ready to enter the 30s…that seemed so old to me. I remember wondering if the twenty-something women would think I was over the hill.

My 40th was unique in that my whole family (brothers/sisters/nephews/nieces) toilet papered my house, all my trees, soaped my windows, and wrote all over the sidewalks in chalk about my age. I know…pretty mature, right? My family still laughs about it like it happened yesterday.

My 50th came right on the heels of my wedding. We even used the same guest list. The best part was that all our friends were already accustomed to partying together from all the various wedding events, making it a pretty wild gathering…for a bunch of fifty-year-olds, that is! And of course I received every Over-the-Hill card, funny gift, and token that has ever been re-gifted from person to person. I can’t wait to unload it at the next birthday party. Hope it’s not yours!

This week I’ll be turning 56. What I have come to realize from the past 55 birthdays is that I have a tendency to downplay the day. I resist any fanfare, and I particularly hate being sung the birthday song…probably the most awkward 30-seconds one can experience.

Birthdays to me are a time for both appreciation and reflection. Appreciation for all the wonderful family, friends and colleagues I have in my life…past and present. Appreciation for all of my life experiences, good and bad, that have molded me into who I am today. I have a lot to be thankful for.

I also like to use my birthday as a time to reflect about my life, particularly the past year. Am I the man I want to be? Am I living the legacy that I want to be remembered for? And am I giving more than receiving?

If you’ve read many of my past blogs, you know that this has been a year of significant change for me…with losing my father and getting divorced leading the list. And yet, I not only feel blessed for every change that has crossed my path this year, but I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. Go figure.

So on my special day this coming week, I promise to stop downplaying the significance of my birthday. I’m going to celebrate it as it should be celebrated…and end the evening with a toast…to me. That still feels weird but I’m going to do it anyway.


  1. Happy Birthday week!

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