I Don’t Celebrate Birthdays

Today I turned 26 years old. This is an important thing to keep in mind for 2 reasons. The first is that I don’t like to celebrate my birthday. I try to keep it a secret from everyone to avoid any surprise parties or unwanted attention on my birthday. This year, that wasn’t the case.

The second reason that it is important to remember that today is my 26th birthday is because this week was the first time in my life that I realized I’m not stressed, I’m happy with where my life is headed, and lastly, I feel proud of myself.

For those who know me closely, they can attest, I have always been very hard on myself. I would accomplish goals and have little interest in celebrating because I already had new ones. Everything came with a “yeah, but …” and I felt like this was what drove me. It was what inspired my constant chasing of goals and dreams. If I had an art show, I wanted 3 more, if I got a great client, I wanted their competitors too. Accomplishments were just proof that more could be done. The first time you achieve anything is the hardest, so once you’ve achieved it once, you should be able to compound that. This was my thought process, this was the never ending chase that motivated and led me to constantly feeling like I wasn’t achieving enough, that I was failing.

I’m going to backtrack for a moment and talk about my birthday, specially why I don’t like to celebrate it. To me, a birthday is arbitrary. It only signifies that you have successfully kept breathing for 365 more days. In my opinion, when considered by everyday people with generally good health, this is not an achievement worth celebrating. Celebrations should be kept for weddings, pregnancies, births, new jobs, new houses, and any other accomplishment that takes effort, work and dedication. Celebrations are for achievements and every year on my birthday, my detest for birthday celebrations was very much rooted in my feelings of failure. I didn’t want to celebrate because I didn’t feel I had accomplished anything worth a celebration.

In the past year I climbed a mountain, bought my own car, went on a cross continent road trip with my brother, started making a steady income from my photography, and most recently, I was able to quit my full time job and dedicate the majority of my time to pursing my career as a photographer. Now, these things are all very different. Climbing a mountain was a physical feat that I didn’t believe I could accomplish. Buying a car was something I never imagined I could afford at this point in my life. Going on a roadtrip across Canada and throughout the US was something I had planned since I was a teenager but never figured I could accommodate the cost of living on the road for so long. And lastly, making photography my career was something I just didn’t think was possible or sustainable as a primary source of income at such an early stage of my career.

The truth is, all of these things happened out of circumstance. The trip to Machu Picchu was booked while me and a friend got a notification about flight deals to Peru. We were unintentionally drunk at lunch on a Friday and had no idea that this meant we would hike to the top of a mountain 6 months later. I also had no idea this would rekindle my love for photography that I had misplaced shortly after finishing my photography degree. I bought the car with money I figured I’d spend on a post grad program that didn’t work out. My brother came on the roadtrip with me because of a conversation we had about wanting to see the west coast. We were on a weekend camping trip and had talked about how badly we wanted to see the Rocky Mountains. I got my first freelance client through Instagram while on that roadtrip because someone at a photo agency who followed me on Instagram saw I was in California and they needed a photographer for a shoot. That client later lead to a bunch more work and snowballed to a point where I had to choose between a 9–5 job or starting to say no to the client work I had only been doing for less than 6 months.

So here I am, 26 years old and 365 days after I left on the trip that led to the top of Machu Picchu. 365 days after I got rid of my apartment, thinking I’d be moving to New York in the fall. 365 days after I had felt so unsure of my path, my career, my accomplishments and myself.

Here I am, on my birthday, celebrating everything I have accomplished in those 365 days.

Maybe a year’s worth of breathing isn’t reason for a party but everything you did with those breathes should be.

My name is Matt Moreland, you can see more of my photos on Instagram or keep up to date with my travels on Youtube. I’m trying to post every other day on my Blog and I write about my experiences on Medium.