Half-Birthday Blues | Sydney Hecht
Today, February 16, happens to be my half-birthday. Of course, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized just how little significance this day really has. After all, no one would hear the news and say, “Oh, your birthday’s in 6 months! Great, let's celebrate!” Half-birthdays, to me, serve no other purpose than to make you think more about the future. And, for me specifically, the thought of turning eighteen in six months is nothing short of terrifying (and a thought I will be actively trying to forget about throughout the entirety of today).
When I was younger, my half-birthday felt almost as special to me as my actual one. Of course, as for many of us, the upgrade from being able to tell people I was now “four and a half” instead of “four and a quarter,” was a big deal. Maybe it was because my actual birthday is during the summer, so this “holiday” gave me the opportunity to celebrate with all of my friends from school. Maybe knowing that the succeeding age was six months away gave me hope I would become more independent. After all, with age came more privilege, and as the oldest of my siblings, any form of independence I could get was liberating. So, when my half birthday would roll around every February, a month where there is already so little to celebrate, my mom would buy me a little gift, make me a half dozen cookies (a full dozen was only promised on my actual birthday) and we’d sing half of “Happy Birthday,” stopping awkwardly somewhere around the third line. And, although incredibly insignificant to some, celebrating that progression from four to four and a half made life just a little bit more interesting for my younger self.
For my current, seventeen-year-old self, the meaning behind half birthdays (and quite honestly, the meaning behind birthdays in general) is much less exciting. Aging from four to five years old came with more privilege, typically in the form of later bedtimes, more screen time, and the ability to have sleepovers with my friends from school. Aging from seventeen to eighteen, although having its own benefits, comes with much less exciting opportunities. I’ll legally be considered an adult; I’ll have the right to vote; I’ll have to pay an adult ticket fee when going to theme parks and movie theaters. So, clearly, much less exhilarating than getting to go to bed 30 minutes later. Now, February 16 is a much less special day than it used to be. Rather than taking the opportunity to plan my next birthday party (which my nine-year-old self did in obnoxious, excessive detail), it serves merely as a reminder of the future, a prospect that at this point in my life, seems much more terrifying than inviting.
I remember questioning my mom’s lack of excitement for her birthday while growing up. Four-year-old me could not grasp the concept that aging eventually became more of a negative experience than a positive one. I think, however, that four-year-old Sydney had a point in arguing this; after all, entering the next chapter of your life, whether you’re aging from thirty to thirty-one, from four to five, or seventeen to eighteen, is a reminder of just how far you’ve come. So, with this in mind, maybe being seventeen and a half is something to celebrate.