They’re weird things. When you’re a little kid, they’re all you think about. Getting older, getting presents, birthdays are magical when you’re a kid. Well, most kids. Mine usually ended with my parents slamming doors. They turned everything into a competition. What parent was better, what gift was better. It always turned into a big mess where I had my brother and sisters with me in my room, playing a game to block out the noise of their yelling.

Maybe that’s why I never really gave much of a damn about my own birthday.

My birthdays have been weird. By the time I hit thirteen, I was basically trying to earn money to help my parents, and then they’d buy presents with that money. The irony of that shit didn’t miss me one damn bit. But it wasn’t their fault. Back then, all the problems and the bullshit really weren’t entirely their fault. Something that wasn’t true when I got older. We really were dirt poor. They couldn’t get work, or enough, that’s why we lived out of a car. That was why we ended up living in that retirement home dad helped run for a bit.

Gifts lose their meaning when you’re the one pony-ing up the cash for them though.

When the group started to really take off, so did any chance of a truly normal birthday. I never spent one at home after that. I was touring. I was recording. I was trying to get the hell away from home cause I couldn’t stand to be around my parents anymore. One year, when I hit eighteen, I remember the fellas made a big deal out of it. I hammed it up, but it was mainly for them. I love the guys – AJ, Brian, Howie, Kevin, they’re my real family, where it counts. But they didn’t realize the reason why I didn’t want anyone to make a big deal, was because it reminded me of all the shitty ones of the past.

One year, for my birthday, my mother asked for me to pay off the rest of the house payments for her. She was living in the “Carter Compound” as she called it. Heh, my fucking birthday, and she wanted me to pay for her goddamn house. I did. I was twenty-two, high, and fed up with her bullshit. It’s amazing I escaped that family as sane as I am, and that ain’t saying too much.

Is it really any shock that Aaron’s in rehab now? He didn’t have the support system I had, and I didn’t come out much better for a long ass time.

I wasted half the birthdays of my twenties either wasted, high, or a combination of both. I preferred the latter for a long time. My twenty-eighth birthday was a major one. Do you know why?

That was the day I got diagnosed with Cardiomyopathy.

Happy fucking birthday to me yet again.

It was probably the scariest day of my life, and it was also the day I finally cleaned my ass up. I worked out, saw a therapist, and realized a few things. Birthdays even as an adult are still as magical as they are when you’re a kid. Or, well, they can be. They’re really celebrating you. As cheesy as it is (and I sound like Brian here), they’re this big toast to life. And I guess, as I went to therapy I learned that. I need to let go of the past, my parents, and forgive them. As fucking hard as that is and as much as they really don’t deserve it, I need to do it. Accept everything for what it is.

After that, everything fell together. I started really seeing life for what it is, and I started living it. Suddenly I didn’t hate my life anymore. I loved it. And I loved my birthday for the past two (now three) years. I mean why not enjoy myself? Why not live it up and celebrate the fact my ass is still here, still living, and still doing what I love.

I realized I was really lucky to be able to say that.

So now that I’m turning thirty-one, it’s amazing. Like, hell, I never expected to get this far. I was always expecting to pull like a River Phoenix or some shit during my twenties, not on purpose, but accidentally. I assumed it would, but up until I got that close call, I didn’t give a damn. So me being here? A goddamn miracle.

I ain’t old though. As long as Brian, Kevin, AJ and Howie around to be older than me, I’m still the youngin’. HA! I still win! I’m never getting old with them around!

I check my hair for grey each day now; I wonder when it’ll start. I’ll probably pull a Brian and start dying it. At least I know I won’t lose it anytime soon, if my dad’s any sign of that. Hah, poor AJ…

But as midnight comes, and I sit here, realizing I’ve aged another damn year, it’s kinda crazy. Still, I smile.

Because I’m looking forward to whatever the hell life throws at me next.

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