As a kid, I used to dread my birthday on January 11th. In Argentina, it was summer, and all my friends were usually away on vacation. I remember feeling jealous because most of them got to celebrate their birthdays during better parts of the year. Our house didn’t have AC – a luxury reserved for the wealthy back then. Instead, we had ceiling fans in every room, and I have vivid memories of trying to fall asleep while sweating, or taking cold showers in the middle of the night. Let’s just say, I wasn’t fond of celebrating my birthday in summer time.
A few years ago, I ignored my instincts and invited some close friends to a dinner at a restaurant. It was a disaster. We ended up at a poorly lit outdoor table with music playing from a tiny Bluetooth speaker on the floor. It didn’t help that these friends didn’t really know each other. I vowed never to repeat that mistake.
As my birthday nears, I told my boyfriend: NO SURPRISE PLANS.
Everything must be known to me beforehand. If you are familiar with PTSD this might ring a bell.
Since an early age, I’ve wished for the holidays and my birthday to pass quickly. This feeling only intensified when I moved abroad, often feeling like the third wheel in celebrations. Then, with my mom’s passing (her birthday is February 21st), this least favorite time of year extended now from Christmas to the end of February.
So yes, my relationship with celebrations and the end of the year is complex.
However, as an adult, I’m softening a bit. I’m feeling a need to preserve some rituals or celebrations that connect me to my roots, the place I came from, and the people who have loved me most, including those who are no longer here.
I often ponder about older generations’ emphasis on family celebrations, or what I like to call rituals, and how isolated we’ve become as a society. During my rounds at the hospice, I see rooms with people lying in bed, watching TV, with very few personal items to remind them of love. Yet, a phone is always within reach.
It saddens me to see this reflection of society in myself: an aversion to large groups, a feeling of inadequacy at social gatherings, despite being seen as a social person.
I recall giving up on my parents, thinking they wouldn’t change their ways. But growing up, I realize how easy it is to become complacent with what’s expected of you. And how hard it is to change. I’m trying to change this. To be open to change.
My hope, and the inspiration for my work, is to renew a sense of connection. In Buddhism, they talk about interconnectedness – and I’m not referring to the internet. I’m talking about returning to genuine conversations, eye contact, hellos and goodbyes, and being the first to help someone in need on the street. We are all the same. The concept of interconnectedness is a fundamental principle. All things are interconnected and interdependent. Nothing exists in isolation.
I question our basic humanity in our daily routines and believe we can do so much more to reconnect with an essential part of ourselves, recognizing that we are social beings. Science even tells us that our nervous systems help each other to regulate. Yet, our attention is often focused on tiny screens.
I’m not here to dwell on how things are going awry. Instead, I’m writing to myself and to you, encouraging us to lift our gaze, look into each other’s eyes, smile more, and share the joy of feeling connected. To celebrate what makes us human, to reconnect with our roots, our rituals, and the many gifts passed down from previous generations.