Happy Birthday! The thought of it actually makes me cringe a little. Especially since I’ve entered my forties. This week (Friday) marks another year older. (Let’s hear it for all the August babies!!) Another year to look back and celebrate my victories and mourn my defeats. Unfortunately, as of late, I seem to focus more on the defeats.
I used to love birthdays. As a kid, it was the best day of the year! A day all about ME. A cake and a party all in my honor. And of course the PRESENTS! Every year as children, my sister and I would get to pick out the kind of cake we wanted and my mom would make it. Now I’m not talking about just any regular old chocolate cake. I’m not sure if they still sell them, but she used to buy these special cake pans and kits based on any cartoon character or superhero we wanted! I remember having a fully decorated Superman cake, a Batman cake, and there may have even been a Spider-Man cake one year. (I see a superhero trend!)
But over the last several years, I just don’t get excited about birthdays. Instead of bringing joy and excitement, I find myself depressed. On edge. Filled with regrets. Just the idea of family asking what I want or what I want to do for my birthday causes me anxiety. I honestly don’t know why, but I do have a theory.
Since I’ve turned forty, I guess I sort of view my life as being half over. I’ve reached the midway point. From this point on everything is downhill.
I have this image in my head of a roller coaster. Up until now, my car has slowly been climbing to the peak and now I’m right there at the highest point looking over the edge, ready to start barreling headlong to my journey’s end. Honestly, that can be discouraging to someone who feels like they still haven’t found their calling. At this point in life, everything should be figured out. Right? I should be well on my way in my chosen career, putting money away for retirement. You know, the American Dream – complete with a four bedroom house in a nice subdivision, 2.5 kids, and a couple of pets. (Disclaimer: no house, no kids, and no pets here!)
I was born in 1975. Just old enough to be a Gen-Xer but still close enough to have the influences and sensibilities of a Millennial. My entire life I watched my parents, and even my grandparents, work hard and save for retirement. When my parents were my age, they already had two kids. In my teenage years, I watched as my grandparents retired and were able to travel and enjoy a comfortable life. These days, it doesn’t always work that way. For myself, I honestly have no clue what to expect in another twenty or thirty years.
So what’s the point of this introspective, self-indulgent examination? I’m not sure. Other than to remind myself and the millions of other forty-somethings out there that life is not over. Honestly, we haven’t even peaked yet. Remember my roller coaster analogy from earlier? The climb to the top isn’t even the start of the ride. That’s the boring, tedious part that just seems to take forever. The anticipation is slowly building, but that’s not the actual roller coaster ride. Once you go over the edge, hang on because the ride is just starting. That’s the fun and exciting part! All the curves and loops, not quite sure if you’re having fun or just terrified! And that’s exactly how life is.
So as I celebrate another year, I’m going to hang on for dear life. I don’t know what’s ahead of me this year, especially with all the recent changes in my life. Instead of worrying about the ride coming to an end, or maybe even all the other rides I could have gone on instead, I’m going to throw my arms in the air, let out a yell, and enjoy every twist and turn!
Happy Birthday to me!