Today is my birthday.
How did this happen? Old people are 40. Not me. People like figures of authority and teachers and parents and people accomplished who have life figured out and are settled in lives devoid of complaint or worry.
Me? I’m still 25. And (currently, perennially) unemployed. I don’t have anything figured out. I still have many chapters of life and things to check off my list.
How did I get to be 40?
Admittedly, I look at pictures of my kids and see a man with lines all over his face in the background and I think, “Wait. Is that really ME?”
Somebody called me Mr. Lodge, yesterday. Um…that means I have things figured out. No wonder the Holden Caulfields of the world see adults as phonies. We’re all just faking it, too. Is that a secret to life? I suppose.
I’m mildly annoyed by the birthday “event”. I basically “wish away” these pain-in-the-asses where I should be happy or thrilled or partyrific or whatever. But more often than not, I’m reflective.
And for my 40th, people ask, “what are you doing?” with earnest excitement. That’s sweet of them. But I feel the pressure to describe enormous plans. Am I supposed to be renting limousines? Planning epic trips with freidns to rent houses in Italy? (If only I were in hedge funds.) Aren’t I supposed to have parties with 80 people in attendance?
And the pressure of being thrilled and bubbly all day long?
I take a step back (meaning: a sip of wine), and come back to an important principle a good friend shared with me years ago: “stop shoulding all over yourself.”
I don’t want a limousine and huge party. I just want some quiet time with a cup of coffee (and no kids), to go for a run (because my knees are still allowing it), read with my boys before their bedtime, and to have dinner with some friends.
And I don’t particularly feel like being bubbly and happy all day.
I want just: to be.
It’s a moment to take stock.
Shit, I’m older. I’ve got less time to screw around.
(But I want to keep screwing around and being silly, too.)
The bubbly, happy place isn’t where I’m most content. And that’s something that annoys and brings anxiety. My own people-pleasing default mode annoys me.
Coffee and reflection is where I’m most content. Reading with my boys, pondering life while running. Maybe I need to take up fly fishing?
I love a good hard think and reflection. That’s fulfillment.
I’ve got two gorgeous children who are my entire reason to be, a wonderful partner who gets me, I’ve got my health, and a roof over my head. I need a job, but I’m not destitute.
And I’ve lived to see a milestone age my father never reached. It’s really hard to comprehend that.
So with this new age, and for this four-decade people-pleaser, I’m gonna reflect and feel content and eschew obligatory bubbliness. I’m not gonna pretend.
Bring it on, decade free of “should” and full of “be.”
Happy Birthday to me.