“Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday, dear Julie, Happy Birthday to you…” everyone sang. The candles were glowing, and my friends were smiling around me in the cozy candlelight.
“Make a wish!” someone called out. I closed my eyes, and thought hard. Wishes are hard for me to come up with on demand. I furrowed my brow.
“But be sure to keep it a secret!” someone else called out. I decided that I couldn’t keep my eyes closed forever, so I picked something at random, opened my eyes, and blew out the candles. They immediately lit up again. We all burst out laughing, as I tried again and again in vain to blow out the trick candles. Finally, the waiter ended up having to come with a glass of water to snuff the candles out.
I fleetingly thought of my hastily decided wish, and wondered if it would come true.
There are so many superstitions around wishes, whether it’s blowing on a dried dandelion or eyelash, throwing salt over your right shoulder, wishing upon a shooting star, spotting a ladybug, or magically catching 11:11 (am or pm). At birthdays, you are encouraged to keep your wish a secret. Countless stories tell the tale of the protagonist who gets three wishes, and squanders them all. As kids, we would ask each other what our three wishes would be, and undoubtedly, someone would always say that they would wish for more wishes. We would laugh, knowing that answer wasn’t really going by the rules.
It almost seems like society is saying that the act of wishing in and of itself is a bit audacious.
I’m not sure if we really think wishes can come true. Even the Merriam-Webster definition of wish is “to have a desire for (as something unattainable). Often, when people are about to make a birthday wish, they turn to their loved ones and say that their wish already came true, and forgo their wish instead. The subtle message is to not wish for more. There’s a risk of looking foolish with wishes.
And then there’s the mindset around wishes, or desire, or wanting. Do we want it too much? Because we want it too much, will it not happen? Should we shun wishes and wish for nothing, instead? Should we release and surrender to the universe instead? That’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself for having something in mind that you want.
Then I think about the Make-A-Wish foundation, an organization that makes wishes come true all the time for children with serious medical conditions. It’s amazing and heartwarming to read the stories of children who want something so badly, and are so full of hope once they get it. Even better? The wish kids say that having their wishes come true makes them fight harder against their illnesses, renew their spirits, and makes them closer to their loved ones. Clearly, these wishes are anything but silly – when children in serious situations are making them.
What if there was no wrong way to make a wish?
What if we felt comfortable sharing our wishes with our loved ones? What if in sharing, we actually had a better chance of making our wishes come true? What if, when someone shared a wish with you, you held space for their wish? What if we believed that wishes could come true?
Here’s the thing. I don’t necessarily believe that there’s a plan for everyone, or that good things happen to good people, or that if you wish for something and it didn’t come true, there’s something wrong with you. I don’t really know why some wishes come true and others don’t. But I do know this.
I know that I want to have the freedom to dream without second-guessing that I’m dreaming or wishing the wrong way.
So, let’s flip the script, shall we? Let’s declare that there’s no wrong way to make wishes; let’s say that you can be happy with your life and also wish for more, and that delicious possibilities are always right around the corner. As my beloved Anne of Green Gables says, “I don’t know what lies around the bend, but I’m going to believe that the best does.”