Do you have a favourite birthday? Is it when you were eight, with lots of colourful presents? Is it when you were 17, with your friends throwing a birthday surprise to you? Have you had a birthday that you wish to forget?

On my Sweet Seventeenth birthday party.

People who know me know that I am a bit antisocial. Not in a sense that I’m that anti, but writing is a lonely job. Not that we hate it, we actually love it. We need to be alone to pour down our thoughts into the paper, and sometimes, that’s a good thing.

The down side is, I become less welcoming to invitations to go out from friends. Plus, I hate to travel with public transport, which plummeted my social activities even more. Especially when it’s cold outside.

It’s easy to recognise where I stand on the social vs antisocial debate. The social people are the ones whose Facebook wall is flooded with friends who say “Happy Birthday!” from all around the world, and get a surprise birthday party every year. Me? I’m among those who do not even put their birthdays on Facebook. The only surprise I got was when I was 17, because in high school, that was the trend.

But I had the best sweet 17 surprise ever, thanks to my close friends. One of them made a huge ice lemon tea image using cardboard and hid inside it. It was the time when I loved lemon tea.

And my first sister (with her husband and her husband’s brother) made me a surprise birthday video. I didn’t see this coming at all.

So yeah, if you didn’t get a birthday surprise at 17, it would be very sad.

Not that I think it’s a big deal. Is it? Maybe. I never even participate to join a friend’s birthday surprise at midnight (oh come on, it’s midnight). I guess what goes around, comes around.

Sometimes I ask myself, is birthday celebration a race? Especially with Facebook, the ‘competition’ seems to flourish even more. One time I saw some friends making a super good birthday video, and I wonder what they need to do to top that next year. Another time a friend told me about the huge success of a surprise birthday party, with more than 30 people attending. What would be happening next year?

Over time, we develop that kind of expectation. Especially when we had been treated well the year before. Another friend was depressed for a week because no one remembered to throw a surprise party for him that particular year, while the year before it was a big hit. True story.

On my 19th birthday last year, only a handful of people remember my birthday. A few notes on Facebook, a couple of messages on What’sApp, and that’s it. My Mom was here for holiday, so we bought a cake for ourselves, so that didn’t really count. But it was ok. Because I spent my birthday with someone special as well. And I was happy.

But because I rarely had any great surprises on my birthdays, I never had any expectation.

And this year’s birthday took me by surprise, because some of my closest friends all spared some time to meet me over coffee, lunch, or dinner, bringing gifts and just catching up. Even my Meld Magazine team gave me a birthday cake. A lot of people wrote messages on my wall, even though I didn’t put any birthday notification.

When it comes to birthdays, some of my friends actually tell me that they would feel unloved if they do not get any surprise. Because it is the norm. At least among international students who are studying here (Melbourne). At least among my community.

I think I’m too old for midnight birthday surprises. Am I growing too fast? Maybe I am.

What makes me happy on my birthday is spending it with someone special. Friends and family who are close to me. I don’t need any surprises; I don’t even participate in others’.

Of course, sometimes the jealousy and disappointment strike, but as I grow older, I become more immune. It is just another day to give thanks, as I have survived another year.

I realised that I’m loved by those who are closest to me. And that’s enough.

What does birthday mean to you? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.