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Birthday reflections

Are you where you want to be in life?

By Greg Merritt

Today is my birthday. I am 43, which is not one of those numbers we mark with any special significance like turning 18 or 21 or 40 or 100. No, 43 is just another birthday in a line of birthdays where we mark the occasion briefly and then simply move on with our lives.

As it is, I’ve never been one to make a big deal out of birthdays. If I weren’t forced to recall it every time I find myself in some sort of verification process (because somehow we’re the only person on the planet who happens to know our birthday even though we are constantly having to provide that information to seemingly everyone whenever we have to fill out some kind of a form) I would probably never remember my birthday. Turning 43 really doesn’t mean much to me beyond having to remember that I’m actually 43 and not 42 when for whatever reason somebody asks me my age and I’ll probably screw that up for at least a couple of months. I’m far enough away from getting my AARP card that I’m not feeling the weight of years beginning to bear down on me yet, but I’m also far enough away from not being “young” anymore that I don’t feel the pressures of being young that we all self-imposed on ourselves when we were younger (staying home on a Friday night is a perfectly acceptable thing to do!). Heck, I even struggle coming up with an answer when asked what I want for my birthday (seriously, anything that I want I’ll just get for myself and anything I can’t get myself I would feel uncomfortable asking somebody else to get for me). All that being said, birthdays are a good time for some self-reflection on where you are as a person and where you have come from. Given that I for some reason found myself awake at 4 am (Is that a getting older thing? My grandparents were always waking up super early), I find myself with ample time to enjoy some hot tea, listen to some music with the headphones so I don’t wake anybody, and do some of that self-reflection.

So here I am at 43 and where is that exactly? I find myself in a house that is getting older and starting to need some TLC that we’re considering maybe selling and upgrading, but we love the location so maybe instead we’ll just invest back into the house. I have a job that is a good job. Not something that I would have told my guidance counselor back in high school that I wanted to do, but a decent job none-the-less. I am respected by many of my co-workers and not appreciated enough by some others. I’ve had some stuck-in-a-rut stretches in life, but I’ve also done enough interesting things that I have many different stories that I can tell. I’ve also managed to avoid becoming one of those “the music of my youth is the only decent music” type of person although I find it harder to discover new music due to not having the time to really spend on looking for new and exciting music.

When I look back, I can see that I have been far from perfect. There have been people I have not treated as I should have, and at times there have been folks who have done me dirty. There have been times when I have been too narcissistic while other times I have been too empathetic. I have been too flexible at times and too inflexible at others. I have been too devoted to work and not devoted enough. Too rushed and too patient. Too stuck in my ways and too willing to break from routine. Too immature and too much of an old-soul. Too outspoken and too reserved. Too little respect for some and too much reverence for others. Too quick to pull the trigger at times and too much procrastination at other times. I still listen to my music too loud and I’m probably too much of a snob when it comes to the music I listen to, the ways I entertain myself, and things I believe in. We’re all snobs to some degree. Even if you pride yourself on not being a snob you’re probably snobby about that.

In spite of all that and all my other myriad of flaws, in about 30 minutes my three year old daughter is going to wake up and crawl out of bed. Her little feet will shuffle along the floor as she makes her way down the stairs while clutching her doll in one hand and holding onto the railing in the other. Then she will come to the kitchen table where I am enjoying my tea and she will see that daddy didn’t go to work today and her face will light up with joy knowing that she gets to spend the day with daddy. Not long after that I will go upstairs and get my seven month old son out of his crib and he will give me that “I haven’t seen you in months and I’m so happy to see you now!” look that babies give you when they’ve been asleep all night. At some point my wife will wake up and come downstairs all groggy eyed, hair disheveled, wearing pajamas that are too short in the legs and arms because they have shrunk over the years (I need to remember to pick up some new pajamas for her for Christmas) and she will give me a little smile, wish me a happy birthday, and then give me a quick kiss while picking up one of the kids. We will hang out all day and have a low-key birthday while just enjoying each other’s company. As much as I struggle to come up with an answer whenever I am asked what I want for my birthday, the truth is, this is exactly what I want. So upon reflection of the years that have come before and the years yet to come, I have managed to do whatever it is I needed to do to come to this point. To spend an absolutely brilliant day with the people I love.

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