Whatever Happened to Neverland?

20130908-225452.jpg My birthday is one of the days I dread most each year. I know. That is the opposite of what a birthday should be. Birthdays should be the happiest day of the year. Just look at the Facebook walls of ordinary people, filled with the greetings of friends, family, and strangers, all wishing a Happy Birthday.

Treat yourself, we say. Enjoy your special day, we say. Hope it´s happy, we say, wih all sincerity. And we bake them cakes and we throw them parties and we spoil them with gifts and shower them with attention, because everyone deserves one day to be special, one day to be the King or Queen of the World.

My birthday was a few days ago. I opened my eyes and thought Well. Looks like I´m now 38 years old. But it did not feel any different than being 37. Or 36. Or even 30 years old. Honestly, it is all the same to me. It was not for dread of aging that I trudged through my special day with a heavy heart. It was not for mourning a loss of youth that I spent most of the day alone in silence, staring mindlessly at the television.

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¨Did you get my card?¨ my mother asked on the phone. Yes, I had received her lovely annual greeting card and displayed it on my desk.

¨Don´t forget to treat yourself today,¨ said one of my sisters when she called to wish me a Happy Birthday. And so, I treated myself. I bought Mongolian Grill Chinese food and donuts for the kids and me, then ate way too much. And so, I ended my birthday feeling overly full, yet incredibly empty. Just as I did last year. And the year before that. And so on.

I do not know when the magic disappeared from birthdays. My childhood birthdays were colorful cakes and balloons, magicians and clowns and a houseful of family and friends, and so much love, you could almost scoop it up in your arms. But one day, I guess I grew up. And maybe it is the being grown up that takes the meaning out of birthdays. Maybe it is the being grown up that steals away the magic and makes me feel sad instead of happy on the day that is supposed to make me smile the most. Maybe every other adult in the world feels the exact same way when they wake up on their birthday, but no one says so, because birthdays are supposed to be like a return to Neverland, where mermaids swim and pirates fight and fairy dust still makes you fly if you believe hard enough.

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Or maybe everyone else flies to Neverland for a day while we cynics are left behind with no magic, because maybe we didn´t believe hard enough. Or maybe we got lost somewhere along our way to the second star from the right. Or maybe, just maybe, it is about people. Maybe it is people who are the fairy dust that put the magic in birthdays. And no matter how many cakes you bake for yourself, no matter how hard you try to treat yourself and to enjoy your special day, without people, you are stuck sitting in silence, staring morosely at the television, and wondering why your birthdays are the opposite of happy. Perhaps the people who celebrate the happiest birthdays are not those who believe in fairies, but the ones who are brave enough to believe in people, and lucky enough to have people who believe in them.

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