Earlier this week, I turned (redacted).
It’s a cool age, (redacted). Sitting right between the ages of (redacted, minus one) and (one more than my redacted age) it’s a year where cultural milestones happen, or they don’t, or it’s a round number, or maybe it isn’t.
Feel free to use that for your own age.
Birthdays can stress people out. I remember, for example, feeling anxious that I was turning nine without a record deal. Time can feel like a fixed quantity around birthdays, and a creeping anxiety can come upon you when milestones click into place. Our memories are indistinct, and regrets, based on theoretical others, begin to pop up. Why haven’t I travelled more? Why hasn’t G-Unit officially brought me on yet? How have I not beaten every boasting friend on my Facebook by getting engaged in an even bigger private plan catered by In-N-Out? That’s because forcing yourself to catalog age is an indistinct science. You have to compare yourself to pop culture markers of expectation, as well as to your own flawed hopes. Did you travel enough? What about your job? Why aren’t your exes languishing in a field of regrets, sighing at a picture of you while uploading that to Facebook so everyone can know about it?
But the world isn’t perfect, and aging is about negotiating between the space of hopes and facts. So, with that in mind, here are three things to remember.
1. You’re Made To Compete
Human beings are not meant to stay content. Forget what a monk says. I’m telling you that humans are swirling gasses of ambition and ego that absolutely need arbitrary goals to defeat.
I’m not pointing any fingers here, but I’ve never seen any other mammal swear loudly while playing Flappy Bird for hours.
Since we’re not made for contentment, we’re made for competition, challenges, and, as a result, angst. Monks have always said desire leads to suffering, and that’s never more evident than on birthdays. We’re forced to examine, at this deadline, everything we’ve wanted compared to everything we have. And, speaking of which…
2. You Forget What’s Happened.
What have you done this past year?
You’re likely to under-play that. “Nothing,” you’ll say, or “not enough.”
Fine, sure. But think of how long a year is, and think of how little you actively appreciate time. The past calendar year takes you back to July of 2013. What were you doing then? Who hadn’t you even met then? What ups and downs have you faced, challenges conquered, regrets had? Whole relationships may have born and died then. Probably a lot of hamburgers.
A lot has happened in the past year, but it happened as you lived it. If you’re anything like me, you can’t remember back more than a month without losing memories to a general haze of time. Things that happened eight months ago still belong to the past year, even if- oh yeah- they feel distant and strange. It’s hard to remember last Halloween in July, but if you had an awesome time and hooked up with a sexy British ghost, well, that counts on your roster for the year.
Think and take stock of the past year. Really delve into landmarks. Visits, trips, parties, kisses and more. You’ll be surprised at what you find.
3. Time Is A Flat Circle
That’s a quote from True Detective- another thing that happened completely within the last year, so add that to your list above- and it rings true especially when looking at birthdays.
Listen: there is no random cut-off for greatness. Stop clinging to your youth as though it’s precious, as though you haven’t been improving your entire life. Do you want to be younger? Sure, fine. But do you remember what a twerp you were then? Who you were dating, what you were doing, what you thought of yourself and the world around you?
You were a twerp. We all were.
Age improves you.
There’s no cut off for fun things. You can drink and smoke and eat and hang forever. As an adult you can watch Adventure Time on your laptop, and, frankly, you probably should. Sure, you can’t go clubbing at forty-seven, but you won’t want to. You’ll outgrow things and that’s a good, exciting prospect. You’re going to grow into new things, new places, new adventures and lifestyles.
You’re going to keep the best things you grew into (like drinking in moderation, sex, Kendrick Lamar) and outgrow the crap you first stumbled into (like drinking until you throw up, being pretty bad at sex, and the Linkin Park/Jay-Z mash-up album.) Growing up doesn’t mean leaving what you love: it means perfecting it, improving it, and finding new, fantastic adventures and experiences to love yourself.