Ever since I left school I remember I was not big on celebrating my birthday. I don’t say this as any sort of boast, but rather because an event today made me realize something about the concept of celebration and by extension, birthdays.
You see, I just passed an IT certification exam that I felt was fairly difficult. I did the usual and posted about it on Facebook and LinkedIn and whatnot because I was overjoyed I made it. Naturally I wanted people to interact with me about this achievement which is why I broadcasted this online, so I obviously I have the drive to want to share things about my life. However I’m not the kind of person who wants to try and rub it in people’s faces to make them interact with me, so that’s as far as I usually go.
Anyway, at the semi-humorous advice of a colleague on chat, I decided to anyway bring some croissants to work to mark the occasion. What natively happened is that everyone who stopped by to pick one up, also congratulated me about the occasion. and some also asked for more details and ended up having a nice conversation about my experience. Naturally this was very pleasing to me, as I received more positive attention than usual. Certainly more than I would have gotten if I simply came to my desk as any other day.
This is, I expect, normal. People don’t much care about other people achievements and if I went around just announcing it to people unsolicited, it would sound boastful and forced. People might even resent me for thinking I’m trying to rub it in their faces. Typically this is why I tend to not to play up any of my achievements.
In that sense then, me buying a round of croissants for everyone, is sort-of like paying for their attention in a socially-acceptable manner. The croissant is free, but there is an unwritten expectation that you positively interact with the person that brought it!
This has probably been consciously or subconsciously obvious to most of you, but it never really clicked for me until now. I bring snacks now and then, like everyone, but it was more of a guilt-thing. “Everyone is bring stuff on occasion, so I guess I should be doing that as well”. The dynamics of the situation are simply more clear to me now and I felt I had to share.
As I mentioned, this led me to thinking a bit further about birthdays as well, and why I don’t really care to celebrate them. The birth of concept of celebrating birthdays is lost in history, so I’ll guess we’ll never truly know, but It feels to me that birthdays must effectively be tradition that begun when human life was much more easily ended than it is today. Especially since children mortality was sky-high before the advent of modern medicine. Thus surviving for a whole year into your life, especially as a child, is a noteworthy event, and naturally, an occasion on which you might want to reminisce about the past year as well.
Therefore, I think I instinctively stopped caring about my birthdays because they in turn do not feel like an achievement. At this point of my life, it’s not difficult to survive another year, and thus I feel no reason to make it a big deal.
To wrap it into the concept I explained above, I see no reason to “bribe” people to interact with me about something I have nothing to say.
And yes, I realize I sound like a robot learning about human emotions 🙂