Today I woke up thinking about my 20th birthday.  I was a sophomore in college, living in the dorms.  I woke up that day nervous because I was the queen of birthday celebrations.  I was the one who decorated doors and bought little treats.  So, if it was MY birthday–who would take this over for me?  Still, I hoped.  I felt butterflies as I climbed down my bunk ladder.  My roommate was dead to the world and I decided to peak out the door expecting some streamers or a balloon or even a sign.

Nothing.

The rest of my friends began to wake up and we started our little stroll over the dining hall.  My heart was in my throat.  They had forgotten.  Or maybe, there was a surprise waiting for me later on that day?  No, they had just forgotten.

At breakfast, they chatted and ate and I choked down some cereal.  I tried to think about anything but the fact that no one seemed to remember it was my birthday.   We started the walk back to our dorms and one of my friends turned around to me and said, “Oh, hey, isn’t it your birthday?”

I nodded.

“Oh, we’re sorry.”  The apology seemed sincere, I couldn’t fault them that.  But, it hurt.  And maybe it shouldn’t have.  It is such a small thing to have people wish you a happy birthday–to want to celebrate, but perhaps that is what hurt so much–they couldn’t even do such a small thing for me.

I hadn’t decorated doors and celebrated birthdays in the past to get the same treatment returned to me.  I did all that because it was fun, because birthdays and holidays in my home had always been a big deal and I wanted to keep that up.   But, I suppose I took for granted the idea that no one one would feel obligated to return the effort to me.

I cried that day when I was alone in the bathroom.  I got a belated sign on my door and e-cards, but it all felt hollow.  I knew I was being melodramatic, but I couldn’t help it.  I had wanted to be remembered, not pitied.

I never told them how upset I was.  Or how upset I was that on my 22nd birthday a similar scene was replayed–only this time no one “forgot” they simply hadn’t “awakened” yet.  I ended up having a fantastic birthday that year, so I always try to talk myself out of the bitterness, but the fact of the matter is, I’m always afraid to be excited about anything that involves me relying on other people.

I was almost afraid to have this wedding in the beginning because I was afraid those I love would fail me in some way.  And, I knew, it would be my own fault because I can’t seem to ask people for the things I most want.  I don’t know how to ask people to show me they care–because then that takes the meaning out of it if I’ve asked for it.  I tell myself I’m being ridiculous, twisted, and hanging on to expectations way outside what I should or even what I deserve.  But, as all this pre-wedding hoopla starts, the knot in my stomach is forming.  I’m afraid to be disappointed, afraid to yet again feel (irrationally) like no one cares.  After everything my parents, R, and R’s family has done for me, I want to wish these feelings away–because they’ve all shown in huge ways that they care.

But, I suppose part of me is still that teenage girl, awkward and silent.  Somewhere deep down I’m still hoping for someone to take notice, to care, to give me some sort of sense of recognition as being important.

In the weeks and months after that 20th birthday, I promised myself I would never let my self-worth be determined by my friends–because I would never be happy with the outcome.  But, right now, I’m failing.

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