To be clear, this doesn't mean that I don't like birthdays, or that I have some sort of pathological aversion to getting older. I literally don't care about birthdays. My birthday rolls around, and most of the time my only reaction is, "oh yeah, it's my birthday again, isn't it?" I've had people suggest that I'm avoiding some deep seated anxiety about getting older, but seriously, I really don't care. Since I've been divorced, it's been a good excuse to throw a party and have some friends over, but I could do that any time. Granted, people are more likely to show up when it's my birthday, but all I really want is to hang out with my friends.
Against all of this, this time it's different. As much as I'd like to think that this is just another number, it is a landmark. Both because we happen to have ten fingers and so have a weird affinity for intervals of ten, but also because of how it uncannily falls so close to the middle of our lives. Whatever the case may be, it's been more on my mind than any birthday I've had as an adult.
The chances are pretty good that I've got fewer years in front of me than behind me at this point. This inevitably makes one go reflective. What's happened in the past 40 years? What have I accomplished? How have I made my mark on the world? How have I impacted those around me? And of course, what does it all mean?
Maybe I haven't done everything I might have wanted to. Maybe I haven't done as much as I could. It has been a messy, human life. Not everythng has gone as I might have wanted, but it has been lived...
I have traveled half the world, and around every corner seen something new and amazing. I have sat at the feet of those learned beyond my years and gained from their wisdom. I have revealed the thoughts of ancients to new students eager to learn what it all means. I have climbed inside the language and the world of those who came before and gleaned glimpses of their minds.
I have ridden thousands of miles over hills and plains, in heat and snow. I have piloted boats across northern lakes and through sub tropical seas. I have tread mountain ridges and wilderness deeps. I have lit fires against the cold and plunged into icy streams to escape the heat.
I have stood in front of crowds of hundreds and made them laugh. I have lit the stage to make them cry. I have sung under starry skies and blazing sun, in caverns and on mountains, before thousands and to one. I have thrown myself headlong into the tumult of music, and sat patiently as its beauty unfolded before me.
I have seen death, I have seen birth. I have joyed under the moon at a friend's happiness. I have cried at a friend's funeral with the loss of one who helped to make me who I am. I have held those I love as they mourned, and I have been held as I mourned in turn.
I have laughed with friends new and old, and wronged friends now lost to me. I have failed, gloriously, and learned more about myself through that pain.
I have given of my time and treasure to help those closest to me, to help the city I live in, to help the least fortunate among us.
I have raised from a child a woman beautiful and strong.
I have loved, and been loved in return.
It's been a good 40 years. Here's to the next 40.