September is probably one of my favorite months of the year. It's like a new chapter in many ways, and a time of reinvention in other. Think about it for a second: summer ends and fall begins, kids go back to school with their new haircuts and clothing to a new grade, the Jewish new year begins around this time, and the television networks roll out their new program lineups. But there’s one other HUGE event that takes place every September… I get a year older.
That’s right people… this Baztard is about to have a birthday!!!! And I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m turning forty-two this year. Although in the past, I would dare not speak that number (anyone remember “Jack math?”).
I’ve always had a contentious relationship with my birthday. To be more precise, I’ve never really liked it. Being a September child, and Jewish, I have probably shared about 95% of my birthdays with a Jewish holiday, which usually meant I spent it in Synagogue repenting for my sins. My mother would tend to buy a chocolate sheet cake every year, and we would end up having an argument because I don’t really like chocolate, although she swore up and down that I did. As I got older and stepped away from the community, I got the opportunity to celebrate with ice cream cake, karaoke nights, dinners with friends, and even an unwanted “surprise party” for my big 4-0 (I made the guest list).
I get nostalgic around this time of year. Actually, I tend to often look back at the past, but it definitely intensifies around my birthday. Experts would say that's pretty common, as we humans tend to look back on missed opportunities, or we compare where we are in life to where others our age are. But if you know me, then you'd know I rarely compare where I am to other people. I don't begrudge anyone, and celebrate other people’s successes. And at the end of the day, the only person I’ve ever been in competition with is myself.
Forty-one was an interesting year for me, and not just because I learned I’m no longer a Libra (apparently Virgo is the new black). A lot of things went down in the last twelve months. There were a lot of firsts and plenty of fun. I got to see a concert on the Great Lawn of Central Park, became the OG of the SZ, popped my Rocky Horror cherry, swam in a pool of sprinkles, got dubbed "The Thyroid Guy," and managed to have a cupcake smashed in my face. I'm sure I could sit here and bore you to death with a play by play of all the more drama-filled moments, but instead, I think I can best sum up the majority of them into two categories: relationships and health.
Relationships change, no matter the level of closeness. This is a fact of life we are all subject to, with me being no exception. Case in point, I saw it with people I met through my last relationship. It was brought to my attention that some people I thought one way about, and even respected and admired at one point, had plenty to say about me and about my character. I’m talking about people I had gone to dinners and social situations with, and helped with projects. My breaking point came when my boyfriend and I attended a holiday event at an old stomping ground from that past relationship. My boyfriend (who was meeting these people for the first time) and I paid to attend this event, and were treated in such an unacceptable way by the same people I considered friends. That one event left a terrible taste in my mouth, and made me reevaluate those friendships. In the end, I distanced myself from that part of my life. What makes this sad for me is that there are still so many people there whom I love and adore, and I would love to go see and support. But at the end of the day, I refuse to put myself, or anyone else I care about, in an uncomfortable environment.
I also had to make one of the toughest choices of my life. It began last Thanksgiving, when the relationship between my family and I was altered with a political conversation. In this past year, I have found that political talk can lead to major fallouts, but whatever I had said or felt clearly didn't sit well with my family, despite the fact that the conversation wasn’t even with any of them. I'm talking to the degree that communication between us died. I even reached out to extend Mother's Day and Birthday wishes to family members, without any acknowledgment. It definitely hurt me for a while that my own family chose not to speak to me, but I didn't realize how deep it ran until about a month ago when I was on Facebook.
Through a status, I learned that one of my brother's wives had a baby. For reasons I will never understand, it wasn't important to let me know that I had a new niece, let alone that my sister-in-law was even pregnant. I would like to say this was an isolated incident, but it was actually the third time I found out after the fact about a new baby. I can't explain why, but this one incident really threw me over the edge. I felt completely disrespected because I didn't think things were at such a low level, and it forever changed my feelings towards my family.
I have always thought that family was supposed to love unconditionally, not pick and choose when somebody was included. Unfortunately, other factors seem to take precedence over blood in this case. How they feel about me is their choice, and they are welcome to their feelings. But as the recipient to that, I make the choice on how to respond. For years, I allowed the drama to mess with my head, and I’ve acted out. I've questioned whether I was a good, bad, or even a lovable person based on where my standing was within my family at that time. I even believed after changing my name that my life as Jack and life as Sebastian were two separate entities; one good and one evil (along the lines of The Evil Queen/Regina on Once Upon A Time). But now, I've come to a point of exhaustion, and a need to remove the toxicity. There's no hatred or animosity on my part, but it is what it is, and I don't see things changing anytime soon. After years of an on-again, off-again kind of love, I have made the conscious decision to follow the cardinal Housewives rule of not engaging anymore. I will forever love my family and wish them nothing but the best, but I need to love myself more now.
My decision wasn't an easy one to make, and a large portion of it stemmed from my health. This past year saw both my highest and lowest test levels since being diagnosed with Hashimoto/Hypothyroidism. Although I managed to maintain my weight over the last twelve months, I dealt with many symptoms of my autoimmune disease that I had never experienced before, including brain fog and slurring of speech. To describe it as debilitating would not be an exaggeration. It got so bad that for months, I couldn’t blog, watch TV or even listen to music. It started to interfere with every facet of my life, including my job.
Things came to a head around May when I saw a new Endocrinologist. We did blood work, and a few days later, I received a call with some scary results. I was told that they found an anomaly in my blood work, and I should see an Oncologist. They were concerned that I had some form of Leukemia. In the end, it turned out to be a false alarm, but it really made me turn inward and put stuff into perspective. The idea of death kind of does that to a person.
My wellness had to become my top priority, and a large chunk of that would involve removing unnecessary stresses from my life. Even if that meant losing family or "friends." In the grand scheme of things, the petty drama just didn’t really feel as important as it once did. Everything that at one point seemed so urgent just didn't anymore. I decided I needed peace and balance in my life. I needed to really slow down and focus on all the positive things going for me, instead of on who said or did what. It took that scare to make me realize that I am the one in control of my destiny, and I am the one that writes my own storyline.
So here I am, on the cusp of forty-two. I’m a little bit beaten down, but I’m also a tad wiser. As I've gotten closer to this birthday, and as I look ahead to the next year and the future, I've been questioning what I'm leaving this world as my legacy. It's becoming more important for me to do something important and contribute, rather than deal with someone else's hang-ups about me. I actually use the words of Rupaul as a mantra: What other people think of me is none of my business. Life for me has become less about what other people are doing, and more about what it is that I want to do. What that is exactly, and what I wish the future will bring, I can't tell you. All I can say is that my goal moving forward, whether it’s as a single or married man, or a father, or as a blogger, or even a mogul, is to be the best possible version of myself. And to surround myself with people who uplift and encourage me to become that best possible version. Anything less would be unacceptable.
But don’t think I’m turning my back on my past. I’ve come to love and appreciate my history, including all the heartbreak, struggles and loss. At the end of the day, they are my "war stories," so to speak. See, I've earned every wrinkle on my face, every gained or lost pound, and every gray hair. They are the battle wounds in this thing called life; they show I’ve lived. I can’t and won’t deny any of it. In fact, I've put it all out there in these blogs… and will continue to do so.
And on that note, I must bid you all a good night. Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my life, and I need to figure out what to wear.
Oh well… guess some things will never change.