Elizabeth Mugo

I love birthdays. Let me clarify, I love my birthday.

This sounds like such a simple statement because most people like their birthday, but they don’t like their birthday the way I like mine.

It was probably around my 13th or 14th birthday. I was so excited that I wrote a countdown on sheets of loose leaf paper and hung it up on my room. But I wasn’t excited for my birthday. I was excited because I believed that if I could make it one more year, then I could make it two more years, and then four more, and eventually I will have lived my life. I needed to believe that because that year was particularly difficult. My brother had left for college, I was bullied and spit on the school bus, and I didn’t have anyone to talk to. So I did what any “normal” middle schooler does, I bottled it up and pretended to be fine.

I don’t know if you know this, but Mugos don’t do emotions. The only times I’ve ever seen my mom cry was when she found out that I had back problems in middle school and the school couldn’t do anything about the weight of my books and when her mom passed away. I’d never seen my dad cry, even when he got the news that his dad passed away. That’s not to say that it’s all smiles and sunshine at home, but we’re just really good at pretending that it is.

As I’m sure you can imagine, bottling it up didn’t work very well. It sucked to have to pretend to be okay when I obviously wasn’t. It sucked feeling I was drowning every moment of everyday. It sucked to feel like my pain wasn’t valid or seen. It sucked to pray that tomorrow would be better only for tomorrow to be just as bad as today. It sucked to feel like I had to go through it alone. But that’s all I knew how to do.

So I cherished birthdays. Birthdays to me aren’t about presents, cake, or the age itself. It’s about looking at the mirror at my 14-year-old self and not being sure that I’d be alive to see my 16th birthday let alone my 21st birthday. Every February 6th is a day to celebrate because the fact that I lived to another day was a feat, and the fact that I made it another whole year was more than impressive. It’s a proclamation to the whole world that no matter what had happened in the past year, I made it. I fucking made it to that point in time. I was alive despite every part of my body that wanted to give up and give in. It’s about proving to myself that the dark place can’t consume me.

I’m stronger than that.