A few weeks ago, I was at one of the large chain restaurants in Toronto, meeting a friend I hadn’t seen for a while for a quick drink and bite, when there arose a raucous cry at the table next to us. The group of seven or eight people begin a rousing version of the happy birthday song, and as they did, two waiters brought out a cake with sparkler candles for the lucky lady at the table who was turning 22 years old.
I sang along, and loudly.
The happy birthday song is a fun one to sing, so it only made sense that I joined in the chorus that was celebrating this young lady.
After they had finished the cake and were about to leave the restaurant, the young woman came to me and thanked me. She said that having me sing along made the occasion that much more fun, and that she was glad that I, a perfect stranger, was part of her celebration.
I should have been the one thanking her.
After all, there is a certain joy in singing in public, and an even greater joy in celebrating the the happiness of others. I didn’t just sing along to join in her birthday celebration, but to be part of the uplift, the glee that comes from marking a special occasion.
Yesterday was my thirty-first birthday. Thirty-one was much happier than thirty — I was in no mood to celebrate last year — and I spent the weekend with people who care for me and who made me feel special and loved.
I’ve never really been one to celebrate birthdays much, preferring mostly to just mark the occasion with dinner with a loved one and with family, and while this past weekend has been a little more indulgent, it was still spent with the right people, doing the right things.
The birthday singing at the restaurant, and my birthday yesterday, reminded me that for me, the best celebrations are the ones where I celebrate others.
Even last year, when I was visibly distressed, I found intense moments of joy when I shared in the joy of others. The best news I get are the little moments of happiness and accomplishments of friends and family. My birthday yesterday was happy because it reminded me that the people I love in my life are all doing amazing things, and are willing to share their amazingness with me.
This upcoming year, like many others before, so many people I love (even those who once loved me) and care for are celebrating important milestones, or getting married, or having children, or graduating grad school, or just doing wonderful things that are worth a celebration. I am lucky, I am blessed that so many of them want to share their happiness with me — being a part of the celebration of their joy is the biggest source of joy in my life.
Every year, I find one big thing to celebrate on my birthday. This year, at thirty-one, I am celebrating the lives of the people around me, of the people I care for, of the people who have made me who I am today.
Thank you for letting me be a part of your joy and happiness, and for letting me be a part of your life, past, present, and future.