My Birthday Surprise

My Birthday Surprise

By Joshua Smith 


Tuesday was my 39th birthday.


Much like last year, a birthday celebrated at the height of the pandemic, this one was not a particularly exciting one. Not that it was a bad day, just not quite the same as usual. The celebrations were noticeably muted, and my mood followed suit. Though disheartening, it was not unexpected. 


My mental illness, particularly when already in a depressed state, can cause my perception of birthdays to land a little differently than it would for many others. Rather than see all that has been accomplished in the previous year, my mind is instead drawn to the places where I have come up short in the preceding 52 weeks. Expected joy instead serves as the trigger for a bit of doom and gloom.


As I am a particularly blessed man, my wife has found a temporary cure for much of my morose behavior – bourbon and cheesecake. I enjoyed both on Tuesday night, returning something of my typical jovial manner.


This year my birthday came on the heels of a legitimately fantastic weekend, likely triggering the depressive fallout. I, along with my two adult nephews and several friends, attended Planet Comic Con in Kansas City.


If you have never attended a major comic book convention, I assure you it is a wonderfully chaotic experience. There are comic books, celebrities, pop culture memorabilia, and too-old fans crammed into too-small costumes as far as the eye can see. The people watching alone is generally worth the price of admission.

All of these things pale in comparison to the true draw for my family… seeing our tribe.

By seeing our “tribe” I mean seeing the people who provide the conversations, connections and social interactions that nurture our souls, not just satiate our need to not be lonely.

After more than 18 months of social distancing, we were in the presence of our dearest friends. The hugs, handshakes, fist bumps, and outpouring of pure, unadulterated joy was practically infectious. In fact, not practically at all… more on that in a moment.

Attending Comic Con was a risk I was willing to take to see those faces again. I have worn my mask, received my shot, and managed to dodge this COVID bug for longer than expected, it felt like the right time to finally begin living our lives again with the people we fared for.


But taking a risk is just that, risky. A fact I am now living with the repercussions thereof, as I enter quarantine for extended close contact with a COVID-infected individual. This is only the second time I have had to quarantine throughout the pandemic, surprising when I think of how many people I interact with on a daily basis.


Nevertheless, I was informed of my need to be tested for COVID at 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday night, a final birthday surprise to close out my 38th year. Despite my initial dejection at the news, I am doing alright. Though no one looks forward to the necessity of a COVID swab, I trust the science, and that has caused my worry to abate.


Anyone who has met me knows that I am not only fully vaccinated but still advocate for wearing a mask in public, so my risk of spreading any infection is fairly slim. However, that does not mean the chance is zero, so for the time being, I will be following my medical providers instructions and quarantining for the next few days.

We hope that this is all just an abundance of caution and I can return soon, ready to see what I can get done in this 39th trip around the sun.