Do you still celebrate your birthday with a cake and candles?
I remember when I was a child how exciting it was to have eight or nine or ten candles on my birthday cake. I’ve seen my children growing up with that same excitement too.
Sometime during adulthood, that feeling changes. The candles increase in number – you are not always keen to exhibit the number, maybe you get to just one – and the celebration is not about the excitement of growing older but about the years that have passed.
I think that’s wrong. I think we should celebrate the years to come.
I thought about this at my father’s last birthday. He’s 85 now, soon to be 86.
His life has been very different than mine. He led a very calm and uneventful life. He never exaggerated in anything. He was a public servant with a steady job but very little excitement nor responsibility. He never made much money but he was very dedicated and focused on providing for his family in our modest home. In many ways, he was the picture of a pleasant average, mediocrity. He was occasionally writing rhymes – I would not call them exactly poems. His biggest priority was to raise his two sons at the highest ethical and educational standards possible.
But he’s been incredibly happy. In our family, we almost treat his happiness as a joke because it can be at times so annoying. He’s always laughing and joking. He’s optimistic and positive. Even my daughter finds it too much. She says, “Daddy, why is grandpa always singing!?!, don’t get it! ”
I wonder, too. For the past twenty years he’s lost more and more people that are important to him. Old friends, office colleagues, relatives, recently his brother. You’d think birthdays would be sad to him but they’re not.
I think I’ve finally figured out why. It’s because he has exceeded his life expectancy. Every year that follows is a bonus. He’s playing with “house money” as they say in Las Vegas.
I think that’s a really great way to live, no matter how old you are. We should be celebrating the years to come, not the years that have already passed. We should be looking forward with optimism and thirst, not backward with nostalgia and regrets.
It doesn’t matter if you are 85, 65 or 45. Every year is a bonus.
This birthday, I’m going to try to celebrate my bonus instead of the years I’ve already spent. Who needs all those candles? I only want to count the candles to come.