For many, birthdays are a time to rejoice, celebrate and of course tell birth stories! For me birthdays are not imbued with the same sense of gleeful nostalgia. They are subtle reminders of an uncertain past and an unknown beginning.
The first birthday is not simply a date. It is an experience that, although no one remembers, is possibly more unique than any other human experience. The first actions during infanthood are often used as metaphors for that person’s developing personality. Memories are cherished and retold, affirming the foundational identity of the new person. Even stories of the womb are used to infer what the soon-to-be-birthed-baby will be like, what kind of person they will be. Many of those initial actions, in the womb and throughout infanthood, are not actual indicators of a person’s identity but when they do come true they can play a strong role in providing that person with a sense of continuity in the story of their identity. A sense that they have been the way they are since birth and therefore should be that way, which can act to reaffirm themselves during moments of identity crisis.
I have felt the lack of that continuity my identity story for as long as I can remember. I feel like the uncertainty of my past (not knowing my exact birthday, having no actual birth records, not knowing my first family…etc) is masked in the present as uncertainty in the daily performance of my identity. What the hell does that mean? It means I feel unable to make decisions that I feel reflect my own desires or feelings. I find it incredibly difficult to know what I want to express preference. I know what you are thinking. You are thinking is this kid really suggesting that the reason he cant decide what meal to pick of a menu is because he doesn’t know his birth details? Don’t hate me, but yes, that is kind of what I am saying. I am saying I believe that the uncertainty of my beginning has had reverberating effects on how I see (or don’t) myself as a person today.
I believe that much of the uncertainty about my past coupled with the difficulty I have with creating an image of myself in the future (see My Kids Are White) has played a role, who knows how significant, in my low self-esteem. I think that is why I have a hard time enjoying my birthday. I think because I don’t recognize much of the value (obviously being birthed is something I am glad of and value) in the date since it really is meaningless. Without the memories, stories and certainty of the date my birthday feels as meaningless as celebrating Christmas on June 15th or the New Year in August.