Some birthdays are important; they’re milestones that indicate you have survived an arbitrary number of years on the planet without being mauled to death by a bear, as an example. These important birthdays almost always end in a zero, because we as humans have an odd attraction to round numbers. Forty-four is not one of these birthdays. No, it’s as inconsequential an event as one could possible imagine – somewhere between a dental cleaning and Flag Day in order of annual importance. That’s one reason why I didn’t think I would write anything about it. I mean, really, who cares? Even I, the celebrant, forgot it was my birthday frequently throughout the day. But, four days after this mediocre milestone, I do find the need to reflect a little so, if you’ve made it this far bear with me as I put into context the maelstrom of malaise that is 44.
People are icebergs
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle,” reads the quotation that regularly pops up on my social media feeds. I felt like the air had left the room and I knew right away that this was something I wanted to share. It’s something I’ve been saying for a long time and means a lot to me personally. Life isn’t easy for anyone, it doesn’t matter if the problems are First World or not they’re still problems that affect us deeply. In my life I have known: alcoholics, cheating spouses, people who have suffered abuse, drug addicts and more. These same people are doctors, lawyers, economists, politicians and other highly functioning professionals. If you met them on the street you would see smart people with families and loved ones, but you would never see the battles they are fighting. Such is the case for all of us, although naturally not to the extremes perhaps in the cases I cited. Hence the importance, no, the necessity of treating people with respect and kindness no matter where you are.
Failure is a virtue
Over the last few years I’ve thought a lot about success, how to define it and how to ultimately achieve it. I’ve written about the necessity of taking action in order to improve your life, to stop marking time and to really achieve your dreams. At the core of this change, this personal paradigm shift though is fear. We all have it, but how we let fear define us will ultimately determine our success and happiness in life. What are we scared of? Usually, it’s failure in some form or the other. We’re afraid of not being able to make things work out, to make others happy and that ultimately whatever it is we want to achieve isn’t possible. This can mean asking your boss for a raise, or confronting your loved one about something more personal. If the boss says no, we’ve failed. If we can’t make a relationship work, we’ve failed. Failures come in all sizes and shapes; they can be silly things or massive life altering events. But no matter what, these failures ultimately help us. We learn from them, with each failure a little bit of the overall puzzle is revealed giving us a clearer path to success. No great person has ever, ever had a life without failure. What makes them different from us is that they had the bravery, the fortitude to take the chance at failure. It’s no small thing, to put oneself out there and trying to do something different is scary but those who do will, ultimately, succeed. To fail, therefore, is a clear sign of bravery and indication that you’re doing something right.
Every day is a fresh start
It’s cliché and everyone says it, but I really don’t feel 44. I’m not exactly sure what 44 is supposed to feel like, but whatever it is I’m not there. Sure, I have aches and pains, I can’t sleep through the night anymore and being around a group of Millennials wants me to simultaneously pull a blanket over my head and grab the nearest bottle of anything. I remember as a kid looking up to adults, imagining that I could never be as old as they were. It’s shocking to consider that when I was 10 years old, my mom was 35 and my dad was 40. No way that could possibly be true and yet it is. If I had followed a similar path, I’d have a teen living under my roof instead of Siberian Huskies. But as I look around at my friends, some with kids in high school, the not-so-subtle truth begins to dawn on me that not only am I an adult, I’m a middle-aged adult at that. But I don’t think my age has ever really defined who I am, so why start now? If I had let age define me, then at 36 I never would have left a good, stable career to do what I do now, whatever that is. I would have thought that surely one’s late 30s is too old to restart one’s life, but thankfully I didn’t think that way. Actually, it’s not too old at all and the rolls of successful people are littered with the names of people who only became well-known after their 40s or even 50s.
Is this post melancholy with a dash of angst? Yes, it is. Life isn’t always rainbows and puppies, and this is going to be a very challenging year for me. Hell, it already has been a very challenging year for me. But it’s important to remember that one is never alone or, better said, no one has to be alone. It’s a choice, as are most things, and how we decide to progress through life is entirely up to us.