They say it’s normal to have birthday blues, and days before my birthday I have been getting my fair share of these. There are several causes of birthday blues but they can all be categorized into two: 1.) No one wants to get older, unless you’re still below 21; and 2.) You have unmet expectations.
In the olden days it was believed that on a person’s birthday, he is susceptible to evil spirits so family and friends would gather around the birthday celebrator to protect him. They would give him happy thoughts and well wishes to ward off the evil spirits. And this is the origin of birthday parties.
At first the early Christians and Jews rejected this practice, as it was pagan in nature and perceived as idolatry. It was after the fourth century when birthday parties became acceptable because the Romans, who were used to this kind of celebration, started to embrace Christianity.
The Economics of a Birthday Party: When does celebration end and flaunting begin?
We always celebrate birthdays. It’s part of our family traditions. Just inviting family members from both sides is already a good size party. We also feel that birthday parties give us the opportunity to come together and maintain valuable relationships with family and friends. So over the last two decades I have sort of mastered the art of inexpensive parties.
In my book there’s a chapter that discusses the theme parties we’ve hosted for our sons while they were growing up like Art Exhibit, Sports Fest, Sleep-over, etc. Even for adults we’ve also come up with interesting themes like Spa-rty, 80s, Fun Run, White, etc. Of course, our Christmas parties are always with a theme – Greek, Filipino, Red, Japenese, Spanish, Brazilian, Barbie and Ken, etc.
It’s exciting to prepare for parties. And these days, there are infinite ideas and things to spend for just to celebrate your child’s party. I’ve heard that little girls’ 7th birthday parties are now fashioned like debut parties – 7 roses, 7 treasures, 7 whatever. First birthday parties of the more affluent families “bring the circus to town” with a loud-mouth party host, clown, animal show, magician, performers, with two sets of food (one for kids and one for adults) on top of the many carts available for everyone attending the party. All the commotion happens while the clueless one year old does not participate in the games (he’s too young) and is just carried by yaya, gets scared of the clown and cries, or sleeps through most of the party.
Be very careful during your meeting with your party coordinator that you don’t get carried away as she suggests all the dreamy mind blowing gimmicks to make your child’s party memorable. Memorable for whom? Ask any kid if he remembers enjoying his lavish first birthday party and I guess he’d answer in the negative. I also doubt if your little one would even enjoy a lot of these party gimmicks. And most importantly, ask yourself the question: Is there a better way to use this budget that will truly benefit my child? If you haven’t started any fund for your child and you’re willing to spend a lot for a birthday party, then something’s wrong.
Speaking of lavish birthday parties, the video of the 21st birthday party of Jean Napoles, daughter of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, put a face to the extravagant lifestyle using taxpayer’s money that really angered the people. We have all believed that corruption in the use of pork barrel has always been there but the Napoles family just put a face to this sickening greed, debauchery and immorality coupled with the audacity to flaunt it and the insulting explanation on how the money was earned. (To those who have not seen the video, click this link).
Now that there’s a face to this widespread corruption, the Filipino people is able to direct the anger at a particular target: their family and the named lawmakers. We all want them to be punished for justice to prevail. There was a huge crowd that gathered at the Luneta last week and there’s a lot of hate expressed in social media.
Birthday is a time for reflection.
I am one with the people in this wish for justice to be served on these people. However, the recent events coupled with my birthday blues have also made me realize that we should not only point fingers at the major players of corruption. We should also take a look at ourselves. Even if we’re not in any way involved in these billion peso scams, let’s take a look at how we’ve lived our lives. Have we been fair to the people we deal with? Do we do things we’re not really proud of just because it’s how things are done? ‘Yun na ang kalakaran e! I think there are a lot of public servants who initially had good intentions but got swallowed by the corrupt system. Let’s ask ourselves, “Will I be able to resist temptations if I were in their shoes?”
Conflict of interest is always a man’s greatest challenge in living a morally upright life and this why we must endeavor not to put ourselves in such positions. If you were a lawmaker who wants to avoid such situations of conflict of interest, you would vote to abolish the pork barrel. Anyway, your duty is to craft laws and aren’t you better off crafting laws that would benefit the greater majority if you don’t have these “carrots” dangled before you?
Another defense mechanism against temptation is strengthening your moral compass. All parents have this great responsibility to instill this moral compass in our children. The things that we teach them and the things that we do should all be consistent to strengthen their moral compass. And relationship with money undeniably forms a great part in this moral upbringing. This is why I always say parents should teach their children about money, family members should talk about money, what you do with and for money should agree with your core values.
We will not be around forever, but we all hope that they will listen to that inner voice when faced with these dilemmas, which will not necessarily be black or white. We hope and pray that they will be able to see through the gray, and still discern what’s right from wrong.
Birthday gift for myself.
In the midst of my emo birthday moments, I tried to understand why my birthday blues were a bit more pronounced this year than the previous ones. To go back to the two major categories I mentioned (no one wants to get old, unfulfilled expectations), I was a bit puzzled because I thought I was at peace on both counts.
There’s a saying that goes “Few women admit their age. Few men act theirs.” But this is not quite true with me or should I say I’m one of the few. Today I’m a forty-niner! Not a person who took part in the California Gold Rush in 1849 or a member of the American football team based in San Francisco, but a person born in 1964. There I just announced my age.
On the second category, unfulfilled expectations, I am fully aware that life is an ongoing journey of pursuing goals. In fact, years ago I wrote a poem with these lines, “…Goals are just made to set things in motion, But the journey is the more important mission…” So I’ve lived a life looking at these unfulfilled expectations as fuel for motion, so I should be fine.
However, over the last few days I realized something equally important. You see, I have trained myself to always count my blessings whenever melancholy visits me. I immediately feel okay because admittedly, I have a lot to be thankful for. I have never really allowed myself to feel really sad and wanting for a good period of time. Why? Because given all the blessings I have, it seemed as if I didn’t have the right to be sad. Feeling sad made me feel guilty and ungrateful. Now I decided that once in a while I will allow myself to be sad and wanting, and not feel guilty and ungrateful.
No matter how thankful I am with all the blessings I have, it’s okay to question myself, feel a bit insecure, want a little bit more from life, feel sad for a while. As you read this article I am having a whole day solo retreat at the far-flung Sacred Heart Novitiate on my birthday. This is my gift to myself. The Novitiate offers this service in a serene environment and I look forward to pouring it all out on Him, without the guilt. It’s my way of saying “Happy birthday to me!”