What a Lonely Birthday Taught Me

Tl;dr: Having had to spend a lonely birthday, I realized how hard-wired birthday rituals are. In doing, so I picked up the habit of self-reflecting on my birthdays to better be in touch with oneself and then celebrate it with others!

Feb 9th, 2012 was my 19 birthday and I spent it alone by myself. My birthday conveniently happens during exam time so during my 4 years of university, I got in the habit of spending it by myself while my friends crammed for exams.

But something interesting happened the first time I had to spend it alone. Unlike the previous ones in which I was consumed by the “celebration” of it – text messages, fb, phone calls, and hanging out with friends; this time I felt lonely. Plus, I was kind of a cool kid in high school and this was “not being cool”.

Lonely Birthday

I mean I wasn’t celebrating my birthday the way society expects – not alone, have a party, enjoy, and hang out with friends. Furthermore, I was at Queen’s – the best known party school around so I knew how the cool kids celebrated their birthdays.

What was I supposed to do alone? Why was not following the norms so uncomfortable?

How would I celebrate my birthday alone if not tied with external celebrations?

Became the question I wanted to answer that night.

Having had taken up personal development, I put the pen to paper and have been doing so for past 5 years on my birthdays – pretending it was a lonely one.

Lonely Birthday - Journal Entries
Birthday Journal Entries from 2012 – 2016

Birthday Self-Reflections

Fast forward 5 years, I am in the habit of celebrating my birthday first with myself before I do with others. It makes me appreciate the finite birthday counts, recharge, eliminate noise, enjoy the journey, and grow through my birthdays.

Questions I ask myself on My Birthday

  • Reflect – How has been the past year for me? Actual vs Goal.
  • Appreciate – What good things have happened and how to do them more next year?
  • Visualize – How would I want the next year to look like?
  • Commit – What do I need to do to get there?
  • Why – Why am I doing this? What is the bigger purpose?

A Sample Self-Reflection from 2014

Birthday Self-Reflection from 2014

Lessons Learned

  • Tl;dr: Having had to spend a lonely birthday, I realized how hard-wired birthday rituals are. In doing, so I picked up the habit of self-reflecting on my birthdays to better be in touch with oneself and then celebrate it with others!
  • Break the Norms – Sometimes breaking the norms allows you to question the very existence of them. For me, it was spending a lonely birthday vs a big party!
  • Eliminate the Noise – We are social creatures and much of what we do is influenced by others. But, if you were not influenced by others how would you do it?


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