Today is my 28th birthday
. And as such, I have resolved to do as little work as possible, which couldn’t be easier. I’ve got 800 static web pages
to build -- the prospect of that immense pile is enough to deter me from doing anything constructive.
This morning my boss and the deputy director threw me a mini-birthday party. They even made sure they picked all non-dairy pastries. The guilt was terrible -- especially since I’ve been saying so many awful things about them, lately (not that some of those things weren’t well-deserved). Working relationships are always complicated -- these are people you wouldn’t necessarily spend time with if economics weren’t at stake. I try to be realistic about work -- it’s a source of income, not necessarily the center of my life. In Washington, it’s easy to forget that, though -- so many people here are all about their jobs, they even form most of their friendships with their coworkers. I try to keep boundaries up lest I become one of those people.
I also felt bad because I’m still waiting to hear back from the place I interviewed with a few weeks ago -- any kindness on their part makes me feel even more like a traitor. With 12 “final” candidates, including two people from inside the company, I’ve pretty much resolved myself to the fact that I’m not going to get the job. However, it doesn’t make me feel any less guilty about pursuing it.
And then there’s the issue of parties. When I was a kid growing up, birthdays in my family were always low-key affairs. No surprise parties, just cake and ice cream with my grandparents and maybe one or two friends. A stark contrast to the rather lavish affairs some of my friends’ parents would throw for them -- I remember one kid would get thousands of dollars worth of gifts that he would have to hunt around the house for. Of course, his friends were all encouraged to assist in solving the riddles his parents had left for him. My parents almost seemed to feel like birthdays were an inconvenience -- and I imagine they were for them, having to spend money on the latest “cool” toys. Whenever I asked why we never had any surprise parties, my parents always said: “We’re not party people, that’s not our way.” So now when anyone makes any kind of a fuss about me -- no matter how obligatory -- I feel a weird mix of gratitude and unease.
This is not to say that I want a surprise party -- a lot of people assume that those of us who complain about these things secretly want them. Not me -- if I could avoid any attention at all, I’d do it easily. Being the center of attention makes me feel like crawling under a rock. That’s partly why Pantaliamon and I got married in a court house and not at a traditional wedding. Lavish productions make me uncomfortable, especially when I’m supposed to be the star.
Tonight will prove to be a subdued affair. I’ll write a little more of the story I’m working on, watch the nightly political talk shows, and read some more of Neil Gaiman’s “Smoke and Mirrors.” Tomorrow everything will be back to normal, and I can put off avoiding well-wishers for another year.