By Jason Menard
The candles have been blown out, the cards have been opened, the well-wishes received, and now I’ve entered birthday purgatory. Today (June 13) I turned the non-descript age of 32 – and I’m left wondering how I should feel and how I should celebrate.
Earlier in our lives, each birthday is an event. And, for some, that sense of celebration continues on year after year, throughout their lives. For others, the passing of each birthday is a depressing reminder of the loss of youth, or the fear of time slipping through our grasp.
Then there are people like me who don’t fit into either camp. While not wallowing in a pit of depression over the addition of another candle to our cake, we’re not much for celebrating our birthdays either. And this feeling of ennui is amplified by the fact that I’m now in this birthday hinterland.
Taking stock of my life to this point, I’m very happy with where I am. I have a wonderful wife and two amazing kids that inspire me and make me laugh each and every day. I have my family and a few close friends, a good job, a roof over my head, and food on the table. Life is good.
Better yet, this past year has seen the waistline recede, the hairline hold its ground, and only a few more grey hairs joining the fray. As the chairman sang, “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention.” All of which could explain why I’m looking at this birthday with all the interest of a road sign on the highway. Interesting as a notification of where we’re heading, these birthdays certainly aren’t worth stopping to admire.
You see, the people who came up with the concept of wedding anniversaries got it right. They knew that, other than the big commemorative years, the majority of those middling years need something to give them a kick in the pants. So, instead of relying on the public to come up with ideas, they decided to take the thought process out of the equation and spoon-feed us celebratory themes. Wood, paper, gold, silver – it’s all laid out for us in easy-to-follow steps.
But what about birthdays? For my kids, each and every passing year is an exciting event. They’re ferociously striving to shed their youth, just as my wife and I work just as hard to hold on to its diminishing vestiges. Then there are the biggies – 13, 16, 18, 19, 21, 25, 30… There’s much to look forward to, and the next big celebration is no more than a few years away.
Then we hit our 30s and we’re stuck in the middle between adulthood and youth. I’m not old enough to be considered a sage, elder statesman, but I’m apparently old enough to see my youth the subject of countless nostalgia specials. I’m not young enough to get away with the follies of youth anymore, but I’m still young enough to feel youthful most of the time – which is a good thing. Best of all, I’m still on the right side of the grass, so I’ve got nothing to complain about.
So where’s my guide? Where’s my Hallmark-created step-by-step guide to aging? How do I best commemorate reaching an age where one day I’ll feel older than my years, and the next I’ll question who decided that I was mature enough to handle a family? Or will the uncertainty of these non-descript birthday years help the transition from youth to maturity?
With that in mind, I tip my hat to the passing of my 32 nd birthday, content in knowing that I’m still racing down the road of life, hoping to get to where I want to go. And as I pass that highway marker saying “40 – 8 years” I know that I don’t have to stop and take stock of the road behind me just yet. I’m not yet where I want to be, but I’m on my way. Besides, where would the fun be if all my goals were already reached? There’s still the open road ahead, with all its twists and turns to both endure and enjoy – and there are thousands of stops that I’ll be making along the way in the future.
But for today, I will pause to appreciate the scenery around me and who my driving companions are. It’s not the final destination that matters, it’s appreciating the route we take to get there.
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