Alas, another birthday come and gone.
It was a nice day all around – D and I indulged in a new restaurant, specializing in New Orleans/Cajun fare, and enjoyed some much needed quality date night time (because even when you’re married, it’s still important (maybe even more important) to take time to do this). As we watched some singles play the dating game up at the bar, we laughed about our aging and of days past and how we have changed in our actions and activities over the years. We aren’t old, by any means. But we feel older, more mature, a tisch wiser than our teenage/college-aged selves. While that used to make us feel a little bit sad and nostalgic, we’ve finally come to realize that this isn’t a bad thing – we’re actually quite alright with it.
Sometimes it feels like there is such a bad connotation in our culture with getting older. At some point, people start dreading birthdays coming around because they keep bringing to mind our inevitable mortality. All around us we are slammed with ‘secrets’ to stop the aging process, to trick everyone into thinking we have single-handedly found the fountain of youth – anti-aging face creams, hair dye, face lifts, all manner of other plastic surgery options. There is this constant fear, generally reinforced by the movies, TV shows, and other entertainment we take in, that our spouse will get bored with us and leave us for the younger, more voluptuous, sexy woman/man. And so we must keep constant vigilance and try to trick our minds into thinking that if only we can stop the enemy of aging, that will fix the real problems in our relationships.
But really – what is so wrong about getting older? Sure, you start creaking a bit more, slowing down, taking on a few more ailments. As he says in the movie, The Notebook, it’s “a general wearing out process”. But there are a lot of beautiful things about it as well – the stories, the wisdom, the lessons learned, the experiences made, the life lived. And that is why we celebrate birthdays. Because celebrating a life should not be reserved for the day of the funeral.
Getting older does not mean the fun has to stop, that we have to get boring and stuffy. That is only an excuse we use to justify why we have let ourselves slip into those ways. The true secret is that the fountain of youth lives within ourselves. Not in some magical face cream. As they say, you are as young as your mind is. Take care of your body. Use it. Fuel it with nutritious food. Keep your mind active with good books, stimulating conversations, enlightening adventures. Laugh. Embrace reality – we are only given so much time on this earth and there is no way to change that. So don’t waste your time trying in vain to stop time. Live it up – quietly, loudly, immersed in company or alone in the wilderness, whatever floats your boat. The amazing thing is, this can all be done no matter what age the calendar puts you at.
A few reflections from my twenty-eighth birthday:
1) Take the time to truly and sincerely wish people a happy birthday. I am classically bad at that, and one thing I would really like to improve on this year is to help celebrate others as they deserve to be celebrated. I’m not so bad at forgetting birthdays, but letting the birthday person know that I’m glad they came into this world X many years ago…could use some improvement. I was touched by each of the birthday greetings I got on my birthday, big or small.
2) Take more time off of work and stop feeling bad about it. Ha, this sort of came to a point this week at work. My employer gives us four paid ‘birthday hours’ to take off some time in the week of our birthday. Mine was supposed to be on Monday. Due to the nature of the job and people calling in sick, I got caught at work a few hours longer than I was supposed to, unable to leave because of inadequate staffing. Graciously during a lull, a coworker took over my patient for me and I high tailed it out of there to enjoy at least a couple of my hours off. But then I was left feeling guilty for most of those hours because it was a busy day at work and they were now even more short-handed.
But who’s going to be your advocate for your time if you aren’t? Life can’t be fully lived on the clock, no matter how much you love your job or how short-handed they are, harsh reality. Another goal for twenty-eight is to drop the feelings of guilt when I elect to take time off, to actually burn up those PTO hours, and then to use that time to do things I actually want to do – not just errands and appointments and chores.
3) Challenge myself. Break out of the comfort zone. After reading an article about a lady who took herself to Paris on her 30th birthday, all by herself, it started the wheels turning in my head. Part of what holds me back from traveling these days is difficulty in finding a travel partner – it’s hard to align time off and finances and ideas with another person or people, though it can make a trip so much fun to travel with companions. I have never taken a leisure trip all alone before, but I’m intrigued. While it’s a little scary, I’m also interested to experience travel all on my own terms – not having to compromise on restaurants to eat at, sites to see, shops to check out. This may be the year I rise to the challenge!
Another challenge I’m pushing myself to take part in – taking on the Tough Mudder or Tough Mudder Half for the first time. Miles of crazy obstacles, mud, and dusting off that inner grit…oowee! I think I’m ready to rise to the challenge. I think 😉