My 29th birthday came and went without much internalized fanfare. A far cry from all the agony of my early 20s, when I thought parties, trips, gifts were directly proportional to a person's worth. It was stupid to diminish myself just because my family didn't have the luxury to observe these traditions, but that's exactly what I did.

I refused to celebrate my birthday for years. It started around the time my dad slipped up and told me he only remembered to greet me when his phone notified him. My neurons immediately fired the words at my greatest insecurity: being an unplanned birth. He said it exactly once, but the words struck a nerve so violently I'd remember it over a decade later.

In retrospect, “because I'm an unwanted kid,” was how I rationalized most of my folks' imperfect parenting. My so-called independence was born from a demon—one that made me feel like a metal ball chained to somebody's ankle.

But here I am, at an age where my old definition of birthdays and worthiness have lost their grip on me. Though every now and then I still catch myself making patchwork out of whats and whys that have nothing to do with each other—an occupational hazard. My current state of mind tells me meanings and rationalizations are almost always created after the fact; they don't come soldered together.

What I contemplate and plan for these days is the annual contract-signing for my apartment. It overlapped with my birthday this year and I was forced reconsider my priorities. I think acquiring the freedom I have now has been my greatest investment and achievement so far. I love my so-called independence.

But being born was pretty good, too.