(This is a bit introspective, but it’s my party and I’ll kvetch if I want to).
I keep telling myself that it’s just a day. I’m one day older than yesterday, no more, no less. But that’s not true. A birthday isn’t a day, it’s a milestone, a click in you lifetime that doesn’t mark time, but experience. It’s a scenic rest stop on the highway where you get out of the car, stretch your legs, and look at where you’ve been.
I have experienced 40 years on the highway, and I’m looking back. And the road behind me is not impressive. It’s gunk and potholes and endless, endless construction. It’s like driving through Northern Jersey.
When you’re young, you love birthdays. They’re about excitement and joy and parties with friends. I’m not having a party. I have panic attacks when there are too many people around, and I don’t have many friends any more. I don’t really like bars. I don’t have room to have people over. When my dad turned 40, we threw him a big surprise party in our house…we had a house! I only know a few people my age that have houses.When my mom turned 50 we threw her a party at a hotel. I always thought that I’d have the same. I wanted what my parents had. Family, friends, and a place to celebrate with them.
Anyway, when you’re young, it’s about celebration. When you’re old, it’s about introspection. I think about my life: where I’m at, my successes, my failures, my flaws and things left undone. I think about the roads not taken, and whether they would have made a difference. I think about “what ifs” and whether I can back track with what I know now.
It’s why people have mid-life crisises. They’re not about “oh my god, I’m getting closer to death.” It’s about “oh my god, why didn’t I make the left turn at Albuquerque?”
I have a lot of regrets. I wish that I could’ve been there when my mom died. I wish that I was able to save Valerie’s life. I wish that I didn’t waste so much time. I wish…I wish the world would slow down so I can catch up. But I don’t wish for a sports car or anything cliche like that. I wish that I could’ve done more Good. I wish that I made more of a difference. I wish that people didn’t suffer because I didn’t act. I wish I had the power to make a difference.
I don’t. I can’t even help myself.
I can’t say whether I’ve had a good or bad life. There are hundreds of millions of people who have it far worse than I do, and just as many who have it better. I wasn’t dealt the best hand, what with all of my medical problems that keep me from living a “normal” life (whatever that is). But I haven’t been homeless in a few years, and I don’t have to beg doctors for medicine anymore. Whether that changes in the future, whether the bottom drops out and I live out my life in a group home or a cardboard box, I don’t know. Whether I’m dead in five years, I don’t know. But right now I’m alive and in a good place. 40 is not an age that I ever expected to reach, so I’m ahead of the game.
I hope that on the road ahead, I can do more than the road I’ve left behind. But the car is getting old and rusty. The shocks are going, the radio doesn’t work, and a dog peed in the back seat. And that road goes on forever, with or without me.
But I’ll have some cake. Cake will make it better.