Birthday Evolution

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When I was young, I hated the attention I received on my birthday. I hated when people would sing me the “birthday song.” I would whimper. I would cry. And, if my weak SMA muscles would have allowed it, I would have slithered into a ball under a table at the first note of the famous tune.

Many people that know me now would be surprised by this. But, it’s very true. If, on my birthday, I could have burrowed into a hole in the ground like El Chapo evading the Federales, I would have done it.

Por supuesto.

Being a small kid with a visible disability, you always get looked at differently. Always. Even as a tiny child, you sense the eyes that follow your every move. The assessing. The wondering.

The what is wrong with that little girl? gaze that becomes so familiar. While it’s not a scary experience, it is an annoying one.

If you’re wondering what that look is actually like, here’s how I would describe it. You know those ASPCA commercials with that mournful Sarah MacLachlan song? The ones with her singing “Angel” as they show a montage of sick and undersized puppies that will die if you don’t donate $15 a month? You know that sad (nearly tearful) look that your face gets when you see that commercial?

That’s the face I’m talking about.

So, yeah… pull it together, dude.

Anyway… when you’re already ‘different’… and used to being recognized by many as ‘different,’ you don’t want any more attention than absolutely necessary. So, your birthday is yet another extra spotlight that shines upon you each October.

I felt this way for many years. I didn’t want the additional fuss, or the attention, that came with that day. I had enough of it already.

But, as I approached my 30th birthday, a birthday that many doctors had predicted that I may never reach, I began to feel very differently about it. It evolved in my mind. It felt like a milestone. An achievement. A mark of a battle that I was winning.

And, suddenly, celebrating my birthday became something that I wanted to do. It was something that I didn’t want to tuck into a drawer and pretend didn’t exist. I wouldn’t be like Rudolph Giuliani ignoring a Congressional subpoena.

I would face it. And enjoy it.

So, now, here I am, years later, on my birthday, proud to be alive and proud to be a part of this world. It’s been a lot of hard work getting here (and I’ve had a lot of help along the way)— but, I did it.

Happy Birthday to me.

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(Yes, that’s a pumpkin spice latte. Duh.)

That October I devoured the entire Harry Potter series

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October is my favorite month. I like the windy days, the pumpkin treats and the slightly nauseated feeling you get when you eat all the Halloween candy you bought days before the trick-or-treaters even arrive at your doorstep.

As I flipped my calendar, my mind flashed back to many of the Octobers of my past. While most of the memories were pleasant, there were a couple that I’d like to forget. Like when I was a sophomore at Patterson High and suddenly vomited all over my typewriter in Mr. Pate’s first-period keyboarding class. Luckily, the sound was covered by the clattering of 35 typewriters that never managed to type in unison – despite Mr. Pate’s best efforts. Not only was it totally embarrassing, but I ended up being too sick to attend football homecoming that week – major bummer.

Thankfully, most of my Octobers have been much better than that one. Especially the one back in 2007, when I spent the entire month reading the Harry Potter series from beginning to end.

The seven-book series by J.K. Rowling was published over the course of ten years – beginning in 1997. As each book was released, readers of all ages impatiently pre-ordered their copies online or waited in line at bookstores. It was a publishing juggernaut. The book world hadn’t seen these kinds of bestselling numbers since King James decided to jazz up the Bible in 1611.

I’m a certified bookworm. In elementary school, I was the kid that always won the Reading Award. I don’t mean just sometimes. … I mean all the time. No one could approach my fearsome reading skills. I was a book ninja, a literary Bruce Lee – only not so flexible.

But faced with a phenomenon like Harry Potter, I knew I couldn’t patiently wait for each book. It was an excruciating prospect. Thus, I made a decision. I would wait to begin reading the books until all seven had been published – even if I had to wait years to do it.

In October of 2007, I took the plunge. And it was glorious. For that month, when I wasn’t sleeping or showering, I was reading Harry Potter. I lived it, breathed it – and when I grew sleepy at night, I cursed my eyelids for refusing to stay open. Did Harry fall asleep during his quest to bring down Voldemort? No, he didn’t. But unlike Harry and the rest of the Order of the Phoenix, I’m a damn Muggle. And Muggles need sleep. Blast it, anyway.

When I finished reading the last book, I cried. I’m not sure whether it was out of joy, sadness, or grief for the fact that I would never again be able to read Harry Potter for the first time. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

If only all Octobers could be so great.