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Happy Birthday

Will Essilfie

Dear First Year,

Birthdays have never been a big thing for us. The typical routine? A few calls with family and friends. The occasional “Happy Birthday” sung by friends and peers as we try to figure out the expected decorum. And one year, someone stunned you with a full-on Ghana shaped cake - what a moment that was!

Photo caption: A Ghana-shaped cake my friend Hilary baked for me.

Yet, birthdays never felt like a big accomplishment. Rather, we treated them like a regular day with some added music and a free drink from Starbucks. It’s not that the celebrations and cheer weren’t appreciated— they were, but for us it was a banal affair.

In hindsight, why were we so apathetic about our own birthday? While we viewed birthdays with blithe indifference, we were ecstatic to celebrate others. When it came to those birthdays, it was so evident why celebration was a must! To remind our friends that they matter and that we appreciate and love who they are and who they are becoming.

My advice to you as you enter college: appreciate your birthday.

Your birthday is the one day of the year to celebrate a life milestone and have a space to reflect— relish in that! Relishing in that, I want to share one of my most memorable birthdays during junior year of college. In the lead up to my 20th birthday, my celebration plans involved working on some homework in the lounge. As my floormates implored me to head out to parties or downtown, I remember being adamant about studying.

As the clock struck midnight and I completed another PSET problem, the floor lounge was as quiet as a mouse. At some point, one of my friends, exasperated, grabbed my phone and sprinted away. As I chased him to my room determined to continue my PSET, a cacophonous cheer of “Happy Birthday” began. Turns out during my intense focus on finishing a PSET that wasn’t even due soon, my friends grabbed my room key. After getting into my room, they set up a photo collage of our memorable moments and a cake to celebrate.

It was one of the sweetest moments from my college days. Getting to reminisce with some of my closest friends brought a tear to my eye. I left the collage of photos up for the rest of that year— whenever I would feel down, I’d look to those memories and smile.

That event gave me a new perspective on our birthdays. In the maelstrom that is life, it’s easy to focus on the negative. And it’s a surefire way to end in a self-perpetuating cynicism. Not every day is going to be great but taking the time to stop and smell the roses, can provide a much-needed morale boost.

Now, as I get ready to celebrate my 24th, I look at it with excitement. I’m working and volunteering in roles that challenge and excite me daily. And best of all, we’re surrounded by friends and family that mean the world and more to us.

If that isn’t something to get excited about, I don’t know what is.

Cheers to our birthday!

Will

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