Birthdays - A Time to Reflect
Tomorrow is my birthday. Except when this goes live it will have been yesterday. To you, yesterday was my birthday. Unless you’re reading this on a day that isn’t November 5th. In which case, my birthday was some time ago or it’s coming up again in the future. It’s hard to cover all bases. To quote a great British actor playing an American doctor, luckily, it's been well established that time is not a fixed construct.
There’s some big stuff happening in the world right now, which is making this very hard to write. Today, as I write this, America is going to the polls to decide whether Donald Trump should have another four years to continue to fuck his country over. On the day that this goes live, so today for you, possibly, England goes back into lockdown, assuming the Great and Powerful Boz got the idea through parliament. This lockdown is currently scheduled to last for one month, but we’ve heard shit like that before. I won’t be surprised if it lasts longer than anticipated or doesn’t go according to plan in some intriguing way. So, there’s a lot of uncertainty in the air over the next couple of days and in the future in general.
When there’s all this big stuff going on in the world, it can seem trivial to celebrate things like birthdays. In fact, even people who know me reasonably well are often surprised that I actually really like making a fuss of my birthday. I do the big meal at Christmas with my family, but I don’t buy presents or put up decorations or do what most people would think of Christmassy things. I think Valentine's Day is a load of pink, red, and glittery commercial crap. My parents have been left empty handed on Mother’s and Father’s Day for many years now. Not because I don’t love them, but because I hope I show them that every day of the year, not just on one day. I realise a lot of people get a lot of joy from these types of holidays, but they just don’t do anything for me. These dates are simply random points in time that don’t seem all that relevant to my life.
However, birthdays and anniversaries are a different story. I like celebrating the birthdays of people I care about because the fact that these people exist has had a major and positive impact on my life. It’s fun to make a fuss over anniversaries of significant occasions in my life for the same reason. The dog’s adoption day, my wedding anniversary, the day I climbed my first outdoor boulder project. These days, for me, are worth celebrating.
When it comes to my own birthday, I just like treating it as an opportunity to be totally selfish and do whatever the heck I want! I’m obviously no saint. I doubt saints swear half as much as I do. But I feel like I spend a lot of my life worrying about how what I do affects other people. At the moment, there seems to be so much pressure on people to be perfect or at least constantly pushing in that direction. Use less plastic. Eat less meat. Work hard for your career. Have a perfect home. Don’t neglect your family. Make sure you do plenty of exercise. Take the time to relax. Donate to charity. Save for retirement. I could go on, but you get the idea. I use my birthday as a free pass to ignore all of that and just eat cake, drink gin, and forget about all the shite that gets in the way on all the other days of the year. Forgetting things might be a little harder this year but it’s nothing a little extra gin won’t solve.
It’s not always been easy for me to plan for my birthday or other great occasions in my life. When I worked in theatre it was pretty hard to plan anything. Days off work were basically unheard of if you were lucky enough to have a job and I was always terrified to book anything too far in advance in case I managed to actually get a job. I only managed to take two days off work for my own wedding and spent birthdays in random theatres all over the country. In 2015, it was Exeter. 2016, somewhere near Birmingham. I think it was Bromley in 2017. Things got a bit more predictable when I jacked the touring malarkey in. 2018 and 19 were both in the same place but I don’t think Past JoJo would have predicted I’d live in Spain for two and half years so even that was a little bit out of the blue. A few years ago, if you’d told me that in 2020 I would be moving in with my parents-in-law and spending my thirty-first birthday watching the results of the American election come in, while stocking the gin cupboard for a month in lockdown due to a global pandemic I’d have thought you’d been at the bottle of Bombay Sapphire yourself.
Past birthday shenanigans
Even something as simple as planning what to write for my birthday blog post seems impossible this year. I thought about trying to write a ‘choose your own adventure’ style post where you just read the paragraphs that made sense depending on how the election went. Skip to paragraph two if Trump won with a landslide and you just want to read a long list of expletives. Scroll on down to paragraph four if it was a miraculous dead heat and they’ve had resort to amendment 462 of the American constitution. The one everyone has forgotten about but that means the next Oval Office inhabitant will be the first of the two candidates to successfully fire a peanut butter and jelly sandwich out of a t-shirt cannon and knock a can of Mountain Dew off a bald eagle’s head (sorry America, that’s a bad joke but I like it!). Or how about paragraph five. In this reality, Biden won with a small but clear majority. However, Trump is hiding in a broom cupboard in the White House with his hands over his eyes screaming ‘can’t see you, can’t see me!’ while Melania takes advantage of the situation and makes a break for freedom. Unfortunately, there’s just way too many variables and possible outcomes for that idea to work. In the end, I continued my birthday theme of self-indulgence and just wrote whatever the heck I fancied without worrying about where it was going or what the point of it was.
This seems like a sound policy at the moment, if your life is stable enough to indulge in such devil-may-care behaviour. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past few years (and let’s face it, some of us don’t seem to have managed even that small feat) it’s that life is unpredictable. Reality doesn’t care too much for your plans. Time has almost ceased to mean anything when we’ve been trapped in a bizarre holding pattern for so many months of 2020. It’s all been very wibbly wobbly timey wimey and I don’t have an answer for any of you about what will happen in the months and years to come. I don’t even know where I’ll be spending my next birthday so I’m a fat load of use to you as a device for predicting the future.
Anyway, I’m off to bed now and, whatever happens on the other side of the Atlantic while I crack on with my beauty sleep, I plan to have a marvelous birthday with my excellent, if somewhat unexpected housemates.
I started this post with a line from one excellent actor and I shall close with one from a colleague of his. It’s simple but poignant and it’s been on my mind over the last few days as we head towards what seems like another important moment in history. To quote Edmund Blackadder, good luck everyone.
See you on the other side.