It wasn’t fancy. It was just round with a very classic black and white look. It was my favorite birthday present of my childhood and quite possibly the only memory I have of my birthday celebrations. I was eight and my parents had gotten me the best gift of all, a soccer ball.
I had zero coordination and my best attempts at anything resembling a soccer move would be a painful toe punch towards nothing, but nobody cared. Certainly not me. All I knew was that I had a chance to kick a ball around with my Dad and my friends and that was plenty of celebration for me.
Which brings us to today which is my 30th birthday. Every year I try my best to play down this birthday hoopla. TJ’s been extraordinary in her efforts to celebrate me, my birth and my existence but I’ve always put up a stern resistance to the notion that my life needs to be celebrated. I disguise it as a misguided belief that it’s just a “normal day” like every other day and I’m uncomfortable with all the attention.
While there is a certainly some truth to it, what lies beneath that nonsense is that I never really felt that anybody would really care. What makes the post below from my wife and friends so meaningful is that I have rarely sensed that people know me or thought anything of me. The words of affirmation below are a strong “in your face” statement against my inner insecurities that if people really knew me, they would despise me.
I miss that eight year old version of me. Armed with nothing but a ball and no discernible talent, people still celebrated and played with me. Somewhere in the past 22 years I’ve taught myself that I needed to be more than just me for anyone to care. Some of it was from parties where very few people showed up. Some of it was from forgotten birthdays. Whatever it was, the message was always loud and clear, “You are a nobody and nobody cares.”
In the end, it was just easier to tell myself that I didn’t care, so that when my community didn’t care, I wouldn’t feel the pain. I’ve learned many things in my marriage to TJ and one of those is being truthful and honest about my feelings and to apply the proper weight to them. I’ve also learned to face my fears and insecurities with strength that is more befitting of a man, husband and father.
To my friends and family who took the time to write something encouraging to me, you haven’t the slightest clue as to how liberating those words mean to me. I am humbled that is how you experience me and that I mean something to you. Over the weekend I’ve started accumulating gifts from flowers to checks, from an aeropress coffee maker to an electric razor, and while everything is exactly what I would want, the little space below that occupies this blog is by far the most meaningful, significant and important gift to me of all. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you for remembering and celebrating me.