There are birthdays, but then there is the birthminute. The former is public, but the latter nobody really knows unless they’re privy to your birth certificate, and can remain blissfully private.
Every milestone birthday — the ones ending in ‘0’, that is — has had its birthminute celebrated in solitary contemplation of the past decade. It’s a silly, random birthday tradition decided by a ten-year old way the hell back when, but I’ve managed to maintain it with minute precision.
We’re talking about a period of minutes, all together totalling less than an hour, selected out of an entire lifetime in progress. But they’re pretty important minutes. Here are some of the findings from the most recent review:
For the first time, it’s dawned on me that my birthday falls, technically, almost at the end of summer. It’s suddenly poignant. Sure, “you can get older but you never have to grow up” and all that, but the fact remains that you’re getting older. When does middle age start? At what point is the arbitrary dividing line between youth and non-youth? I could be pithy and say “ten years from now … whenever now is”.
That would only work as self-deception, though. Even as I type this, my right thumb is malfunctioning. There’s no better way to describe it. It randomly straightens or bends on its own, which is downright unhelpful when trying to manipulate the space bar, or trying to perform “stunt typing”. There’s no overt injury to that thumb, not since that incident with the hacky-sack in high school, and no unusual recent stresses, and isn’t one of the more common RSI symptoms. And believe me, Jaq has had firsthand experience with all of the more common RSI symptoms to know. What the hell is it? No clue, but it’s not unique in it being a weird, random phenomenon that I’ve come to live with.
Since the last milestone birthday, there has been an accumulation of new injuries and other medical indignities. Each time, there’s some extra, residual reminders that persist even after the original complaint is gone. That simply wasn’t even in the operational vocabulary ten years ago.
Okay, battle scars. But what about the victories that accompany them?
Really, what about them?
I don’t think you can have an entire decade without having high points. And that’s true here. Becoming a parent each time definitely qualifies. Watching tiny lumps of screaming, crapping fury slowly transmogrify into humans being far different from either parent is far and away the most fascinating experience ever. Being an active participant in the process of helping getting to know themselves is almost indecently satisfying.
And there were other great moments … but most of those are not fit for public consumption, even behind an anonymous filter.
But the low points? A quick mental catalogue of what happened each year since the last decannual review was pretty depressing. Bad decisions early in that decade led to worse decisions, and these, like that old back injury, just won’t go away and keep on accumulating.
My goal is to never have any regrets, I arrogantly told one the two former b.f.f.’s from about ten years ago. Ha.
Former. Chalk up one for the regrets! Two, if you count the other b.f.f. way back when who never quite forgave all the way. Mea culpa, mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.
And so it goes. Sometimes I wonder how different history would have been if a scant few choice words from years ago had gone unsaid, or said more diplomatically, in a few choice circumstances. Or said when they went unsaid instead. Or had waited to say it until other parties were ready to hear it. Or “opportunities” pursued when they should have been left well enough alone.
Experience has taught me that close friends are harder to come by as you get older. New people you meet tend not to be in neutral circumstances, like thrown together by chance of going to the same school, or joining the same club. Schools end, and there is less time for social experimentation when careers grow. You get caught up in the games like, what does this person really want from me that I’m not going to fully appreciate? and What is their agenda that they should suddenly take a liking me? and God help me, what is it that I really need from this person? That last one scares me … by my own rules, I’m supposed to be the one who never starts those kinds of games.
Yesterday I was in this room with all kinds of pithy quotes written in beautiful handwriting all over the wall. One of them was along the lines of “All regrets come not from actions taken, but from failure to act,” or something like it. I’m here to tell you that just because it’s pithy doesn’t make it true. You can come to regret actions taken, believe you me.
And the rest of the decannual inventory? The work. Work has gone pretty well. The old resume has gotten meaty enough that some of what used to be considered heady accomplishments have been trimmed off for length. But is it work to leave a mark of a life well spent? Is it worthwhile in the larger scheme of human affairs? No? Well then, I must have been building up that grand fortune that will allow time to take on some of these bigger activities later in life, right?
I am reminded, writing this, of the quote, “one regret you never have at the end of your life is that you didn’t spend enough time at the office.” The reality of that is starting to sink in. Took long enough!
Ugh.. This is all far more maudlin than I actually feel. Maybe I’m just not getting enough sleep. Too many all-nighters this week, including the night before the birthday. (The price of not working on a Friday birthday? Do all the work for the day the night before … and yer little weekend too! Mwah-hah-hah-haaa.)
Of course, all-nighters are getting harder to pull too. Four in a row used to be possible. I can barely stagger through one in a row nowadays. Of course, when you have children who are morning people (and all children under a certain are morning people, for our collective sins) who seem to want to be fed breakfast, like, every day, this might have something to do with morning difficulties, but still…
Should I survive to complete the next decannual review — one never knows what will happen — I’m hoping to address all of these concerns. Work smarter, not harder (work less, be creatively lazy, that is.) Exercise more, see the damn chiropractor more often. Travel more, take the kids places geographically as well as mentally. Find new friendships, repair old ones.
As soon as I finish the next project at work I’ll get started. Right?