Birthdays have always been important to me. My mother is a “Martha Stewart type”, so big celebrations and commemorative parties were in order for each holiday and event, especially birthdays. For example, I had a tea party at the Botanical Gardens for my 16th birthday. As you can imagine, it was lovely.
As I’ve gotten older, less importance has been placed on this annual event. This isn’t by choice. Any excuse to get friends together and eat cake is reason enough for me to acknowledge that I’m getting older. However, being a graduate student has occupied most of my time, so I suspected this Libra season wouldn’t be as big of an event like it has been in the past, especially since October 20th fell on a Tuesday.
This isn’t to say my birthday has been bad; in fact, I had a great start to my new year. My roommates and I made candles, drank wine and ate sushi! I couldn’t have asked for anything more wonderful. However, as holidays get closer and we enter into the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, I can’t help but wonder what the future of celebrations will look like. With weddings being postponed, graduations having been canceled and family reunions turning virtual, I wonder how significant social gatherings will be once we again have the option to socialize with people with less than six feet between us.
I think many of us (myself included) are becoming increasingly accustomed to our virtual world. When I was in high school, the topics we discussed in class often pertained to a shifting reality in which the younger generation preferred texting over talking on the phone, playing video games online with their friends rather than meeting up at each other’s houses and our constant want to be glued to a screen. Those conversations seemed very dystopic. “The kids won’t know how to socialize!” or “They don’t have an attention span anymore!” were the main themes.
In remembering this, I thought about how I’ve been content in living virtually. I see people in my social bubble, occasionally come into contact with a cashier (I use self checkout usually) and the rest of my work and school things are conducted via Zoom. I talk to my classmates during discussion time so I feel like I know them, kinda.
Then today, on my birthday, I got the great opportunity to teach a section in my mentor’s in-person class. I hadn’t been on campus but a handful of times since the semester started and the buildings remain mostly empty. When I saw my mentor’s face outside of my laptop for the first time, and talked to the students without their faces lagging or voices cutting out, I suddenly felt a bit sad. I’d become so accustomed to my Zoom life that I nearly forgot what it was like to make connections with new people. It made me feel old and I was born in ‘97.
My high school teachers were right. They missed a time when people weren’t glued to their phones because that’s a time that they can actually recollect. On the other hand, I never lived in a world void of mobile phones or internet. I live comfortably on and offline, but the key to that comfort is having a choice. Here’s to hoping I can choose a bigger party venue for when I turn 24.