Birth­days re­mind me I’m a fail­ure

Sunday Herald Sun - - News - XAVIER TOBY XAVIER TOBY IS A SUN­DAY HER­ALD SUN COLUM­NIST xavier­ @xavier­toby

I HATE birth­days. Ever since I turned 21, each of mine has been a re­minder that I’m nearer the end but fur­ther from my dreams. I’m a year from 40 and fi­nally I’ve given up on my dream of be­com­ing a pro­fes­sional foot­ball-play­ing as­tro­naut fire­fighter. Birth­days also in­volve be­ing re­minded of my sig­nif­i­cant re­grets: the book con­tract I lost be­cause I had a “real job”, the times I stayed out too late to prove I’m a “real man”, the piv­otal com­edy per­for­mances I messed up be­cause I re­ally like drink­ing.

It has been said that “a man at 10 is an an­i­mal, at 20 a lu­natic, at 30 a fail­ure, at 40 a fraud and at 50 a crim­i­nal”. That’s my favourite quote about age­ing, and it’s from Kakuzo Okakura’s The

Book of Tea, which came free with the Kin­dle I got for my 35th birth­day and still the only book on it, be­cause I never worked out how to con­nect it to wi-fi.

I’ve done so much fail­ing dur­ing my 30s. I’ve been stood up, dumped, fired, had restaurants for­get my book­ing, been knocked back by night­clubs, stuck overnight at an air­port and caused a car ac­ci­dent. But I am look­ing for­ward to be­ing a fraud.

There are peo­ple in their 30s who still have birth­day par­ties and ex­pect oth­ers to turn up. When­ever I’m in­vited to an over30 birth­day party, I say I might go, since I’m not clever enough to think up an in­stant ex­cuse. Then I make my ex­cuses when I think of some­thing de­cent, or I just don’t show. The worst part is the next time I see that per­son, I feel bad be­cause I didn’t go to a party they threw for them­selves in an ef­fort to feel okay about get­ting old.

I al­ready have more than enough obli­ga­tions I fail to live up to. I move cities every five years to avoid ac­cu­mu­lat­ing too many birth­day obli­ga­tions, and never go back to where I’m from, thus avoid­ing old friends and ex­tended fam­ily. Some­thing I re­mind my­self of, any­time I con­sider hav­ing a birth­day party, is that it’s a cel­e­bra­tion of the fi­nal day of my mother’s nine months of agony, a day I don’t re­mem­ber and wouldn’t cel­e­brate if I did.

My 21st birth­day and all before were amaz­ing, but every birth­day since has tar­nished the mem­o­ries. Chil­dren’s birth­days are dif­fer­ent, how­ever, as they’re all magic shows, games, sugar, and plenty of other stuff adults aren’t sup­posed to like but do. There’s of­ten free al­co­hol and the sight of all those mini-hu­mans cre­at­ing mem­o­ries worth re­mem­ber­ing is pretty good, too.

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