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It's about that time of year again when I should be decorating the house, sending out the invitations and ordering the cake for yet another blowout bash. But this year as I add another candle to my cake I have to wonder what makes it so different from years past.

At five I wanted a year's supply of coloring books, at thirteen Iasked for a shiny new stereo. For my sweet sixteen I wanted a car, not the wind up kind and then last year for the big eighteen I wanted everything under the moon. So here I am a little over a week away from the meaningless nineteen and what do I want? For my birthday to slip into oblivion.

I have everything this year I could possibly ask materially. My nickname "Elizabeth Taylor" is obviously appropriate. Looking into my closet, one can see the racks of clothes and countless rows of shoes. My affinity for jewelry, dating back to the days before I could walk when I put on my grandmothers' costume jewelry, is also more than taken care of.Makeup, books, purses, perfume -- you name it, I have it.

So why does everyone jump on my back when I say I don't need anything?

Maybe it is the huge party I have thrown for all my closest friends for the last several years? Or could it be the way my eyes twinkle when people mention my birthday? My closest friends are always wondering what trick I have up my sleeve to top the year before. The shock on all of their

faces was classic when I let them know there would be no house-shaking, music-banging bash for this, my nineteenth year.

While my friends and family wonder what drugs I'm on, I want to try and explain what on earth could totally change my concept of the ideal birthday.

The license came at sixteen, graduation was at eighteen, at twenty you break through the teens, and at 21 you can drink (legally). Why celebrate a year that doesn't seem to matter much in the grand scheme of important birthday years?

I am another year older -- but look at everything that went on in one year as compared to the first eighteen.

College forces a person to grow and change. You have to accept the curve balls that people throw your way whether you are prepared for them or not. Mommy stopped holding your hand and catching you when you fall the minute you stepped out of that door.

I did nothing extraordinary to warrant a huge celebration. Even if I had done something so wonderful there is still no reason to celebrate. A birthday merely means that you are growing older, hopefully wiser. Showering yourself with gifts and making the people you love do the same ispointless.

This year I have learned what I should really use my birthday for. I should be thankful that for the first time in a long time my family is healthy and that the people I love are in no danger of leaving me anytime soon. I have a wonderful group of friends who help me through the bad times and are there to celebrate the good times.

Over the course of this year I have matured and learned to appreciate everything I have that other people spend a lifetime trying to achieve, and some still can never find -- a sparkling amethyst ring or those black leather boots you have been eying in the store will not keep you warm at night. A good night's worth of sleep after a long week or a dinner out with my best friends can mean far more to me than any piece of or clothing ever could.

I have two parents who would do anything to make me happy -- so this year, who needs a cake or gifts when I have all the icing I could ever want.

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