I suppose we all feel this way to some extent as we get older, but birthdays have pretty much always struck me as bittersweet. Another year gone, another year older…but hey! A “holiday” all about me!
Birthdays: New Year’s for narcissists.
Beginning in July and marching steadily through August, “birthday season” for our family counted down the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year. My birthday always felt like the last call for summer—a signal to begin the start of clothes- and supply-shopping, scheduling the last big summer projects (only a few more weeks to finish that ramp we started and abandoned), and making sure we got the most of the neigborhood pool passes.
I still get a similar sensation in the first weeks of August—part birthday high, part New-Year’s-Eve melancholy, part new-school-year dread.
Indeed, it’s hard for me to separate my feelings on the threshold of my fifth decade with those I see in my kids heading back to school in a couple of weeks: A little sad that the past is behind me, a little eager to start something new. Excited for the opportunities to make new friends and work hard, to discover new things about myself and the world. To fear looming authority figures and long for more play.
I think of the turning of previous decades:
- My tenth birthday: spent in Estes Park, Colorado, with my parents. An inflatable birthday cake (inexplicably pink and white) and a hike to Bear Lake. Missing our new puppy who we’d left in boarding for the trip. I still had an imaginary friend. We were spies.
- My twentieth birthday: hopeful and naïve in the certainties of a life still lived mostly through books and liberal arts classroom debates, overshadowed in my memory by it not being my twenty-first.
- My thirtieth birthday: sleep-deprived, a happy mess, still on paternity leave with a barely one-month old daughter.
- My fortieth birthday: coming in a year stained but not overshadowed by loss, a summer for trying new things, a decade for expanding and building upon this foundation I’ve created with my various partners in crime.
Though I have a strong sense of stepping into something new, and I don’t doubt I’ll be trolled and teased (lovingly, I’m sure) for being over the hill, I don’t feel any apprehension about turning forty.
If anything I am more hopeful than ever about what the next years may bring. I feel more confident in my own skin, closer to myself—and to you, my friends—than in years. I fear change much less than before. I’m getting better at asking for what I want out of life, and not pouting when I don’t get it.
Writing this letter each week is part of that change, and while I know some weeks are more interesting than others, I appreciate you joining me for the ride.
Since I’m still clearly in the mood for looking inward, here are some…
Links for introspection
- Introspection? We don’t need no introspection (Yes we do)! Too bad we all go to such great lengths to avoid it.
- As much as we love tech and the toys it brings us, we must also confront the growing evidence that the tech industry is also sick from within. Issie Lapowski shows us “What Tech’s Ugly Gender Problem Really Looks Like.”
- Winnie Lim on “recalibrating the definition of self.”
- Kevin Kelly at his best: You are not late.
What you may not have realized is that today truly is a wide open frontier. It is the best time EVER in human history to begin.
- The results of Harvard’s 75-year study on what makes for a happy man are in. Spoiler alert, the results are not all that surprising.
“The seventy-five years and twenty million dollars expended on the Grant Study points to a straightforward five-word conclusion: Happiness is love. Full stop.”
Full stop indeed. I can’t top that!
Have a good week!