Probably, if you read this blog, you’ve heard the story of how I had quit screenwriting and that my pilot script for “Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street” was the last script I had ever intended to write. You probably don’t know that about five or six years before that, I quit having birthdays.
Well, I had stopped celebrating birthdays, anyway. And I tried to get others to stop celebrating for me. I didn’t go out for drinks after work, didn’t invite friends over, didn’t let anyone at my job pass a card around or buy me a cake. It’s harder than you think to get people to leave you alone on your birthday — I’ve tried, I know. But slowly, gradually, I summoned the strength of ten curmudgeons and mostly stopped my birthday from happening.
Why? Turning 40 when your dreams are still just dreams is hard. Really hard. And every year, my birthday became a way to mark failure. Every year, I was reminded that my dreams of being a professional writer were just as far away as ever, maybe even farther with each passing year. Who wants to be reminded of that? On a day to day basis, I could manage. I could just lose myself in a routine. I could be a day-job zombie — wake-work-sleep and repeat. I could be numb. But birthdays? Too out of the routine. It invites you take stock of your year, your life. And sometimes it makes you think you are undeserving of a birthday in the first place. So I stopped having them.
And then I sold a pilot, and then the pilot got picked up to series, and I literally watched all my dreams coming true in front of me in the space of a year, and in the process, I gained a whole new family.
And they wanted to celebrate my birthday.
I emailed a friend in a panic. I needed Emergency Birthday Support. The condensed version of the conversation went like this:
“My friends want to throw me a birthday party.”
“Yeah, Dave, friends do that.”
“Well, I don’t know how to have a birthday. I’ve forgotten. I don’t even deserve one.”
“You deserve one. Keep telling yourself that.”
First, I recommend everyone have a friend that, no matter how crazy you are, will talk to you as if you were a sane person.
Second, and this is really important, no matter how underserving you feel of something — I beg you not to wall yourself off from it. Because it is so damned difficult to tear down that wall after you realize what an ass you are, and of course you deserve it. Of course you do.
So I had a birthday this year. The family of one of our fine young actors opened their home to us and hosted the party. Many of my Amazon Studios family gave up part of their Sunday to come and sing Happy Birthday to me. It was all overwhelming and humbling and I was grateful because, not only did my Amazon Studios Family make my dreams come true, they gave me back my birthdays.