Happy Birthday To Me
Today I’m another year older. Damn, where does the time go?
As kids, most of us couldn’t wait to get older. 10 years of age signified double digits. 13, the entry into teenage years. (In hindsight, we realize teenage-dom is something to dread.) At 16, we’re finally legal to drive, which means our parents will never rest easily again. When we’re 18, we convince ourselves we’re adults and maybe we even vote a time or two before we decide it’s more fun to complain about democracy than it is to participate.
We get to a point when we stop looking forward to birthdays. I can’t remember the last birthday I was excited about, but I do know I started dreading them at 30 because 30 hurt. Bad. The pain seemed to set into my bones once I was conscious of the fact that I had reached the milestone of the big three oh. Dirty thirty. More like hurty thirty.
Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash.com
30 wasn’t the first time my imagination hijacked my birthday. That honor belongs to birthday number 15, when I became the same age as my father when he lost his arm. I contemplated how different my life could be and tried to put myself in his shoes and counted my blessings.
And now, every year my imagination hijacks my birthday as I ask myself if I am to live a fate similar to my parents’, deceased before my 52nd birthday. And then I do some quick maths and calculate how much time I theoretically have left. For better or for worse, I don’t know how much time I have left. Most of us don’t.
These days I’m trying to look at aging as a privilege. Seeing that extra candle on the cake is the perfect birthday gift because it beats the alternative, at least at this point.
A few years ago, I heard a man ask a woman how old she was and then he apologized because we all know it’s rude to ask a woman her age. The woman brushed it off and announced her age. “I’m proud of these wrinkles,” she said. “I’ve earned them.”
I’m trying to carry that same attitude with me. Perhaps that’s why I don’t flinch when my wife discovers I have a new grey hair or when the eye doctor confirms that I need eyeglasses. It’s all part of the process, and it’s all going according to plan. Besides, eyeglasses and salt and pepper hair will make me look more distinguished and professorial.
At 35 years of age, I’m not yet middle-aged, but I’m on the fast track. And as I speed on to the milestone, I cling to the hope that my quarter-life crisis can substitute for my mid-life crisis and that I can keep on keepin’ on. At the very least, maybe my previous experience will speed up recovery.
I’m lucky to see my personal odometer turn another mile. But at the same time, I can go only so far before my transmission blows or my drive shaft goes or whatever other car metaphor feels appropriate. Time is running out. Tick. Tock.
Might as well enjoy it while I can.