I’ve only had a birthday party twice in my life — and both times, I absolutely hated it. 

I usually despise being the centre of attention; the idea of all eyes being fixated on me makes me sick. When I was younger, my family would come over, and we would cut a cake that, for some reason, would always end up being smeared over my face.

As a kid, I hated birthdays because they reminded me of how few friends — if any — I had. It was never really about getting older until I turned 20 this past year. Oh man, that was rough. 

Before my most recent birthday, I remember talking to my best friend Michael about how I felt like I wasted my teens, and that I had this enormous pressure to make something of my twenties. Years of consuming sitcoms like Seinfeld, Scrubs, and How I Met Your Mother have presented this notion of your twenties being the best, most social years of your life — and here I was, in a seemingly never-ending pandemic, where I spent most of my time at my desk watching Hasanabi streams and lectures at two times the speed.

When my 20th birthday finally rolled around, I ended up spending it like most of the other ones: studying for some upcoming tests and finishing up assignments. You get the idea. The most fun I had that day was probably taking a break from studying for PSL301 and shooting some hoops in my backyard. After bricking a shot for the last time, I finally sat down and confronted myself — why do I loathe my birthday so much?

The best answer I came up with is that I constantly feel like I could’ve done so much more than I did in the previous year. I’m a perfectionist; I have that ‘Mamba Mentality’ from watching Kobe Bryant highlights and interviews, which makes me feel like I can always do better. Birthdays just serve as an annual reminder of the fact that I’m not perfect. I could’ve always spent my time better.

But what more could I have done between 2020 and 2021? It’s not like I’d been living under a rock — it was a pandemic. So I decided to end this cycle of hating my birthday. 

Instead of thinking about how much stuff I missed out on, I would think about my accomplishments and the things that I was grateful for. In that year, I became the associate sports editor at The Varsity, another step toward my dream of being a masthead member — a dream I’ve had since I wrote about the federal election in 2019. My grades also improved drastically in my second year of university, and I was proud of myself for sticking to a solid study schedule.

I’m currently staring down the barrel of turning 21 — the legal drinking age in our wild neighbor, the United States of America. Turning 21 will be a reminder of me, hopefully, having finished almost all of my undergraduate studies. Turning 21 is a reminder that I’m now far gone from my teens, when I was a lot more uncertain of myself. Turning 21 is a reminder that, no matter what, I’ve accomplished a lot — I spent the 20th year of my life fulfilling my dream of writing about sports, and becoming a member of this year’s incredible masthead at The Varsity

This road to 21 will be a rough one, but I’m not reluctant about getting there this time around — instead, I’m genuinely excited for it.

I hope that from my 21st onward, I will continue to be proud of myself. When Kobe turned 21, he helped lead the Lakers to their first championship in over a decade. Obviously, I’m not playing on the hardwood for my beloved Raptors this season, but I look forward to reviewing everything I’ve accomplished as I slide the knife into the cake.

Maybe I won’t be mad this time around when my brother puts cake all over my face. And when I turn 22, and 23, and all those other numbers, I hope I continue to have people to share my accomplishments with. I might just throw a party for once this year too — I think I’m ready to grab a little attention.