Beforty | Happy Birthday
Everything around me is quiet. The kids are tucked away in bed and the cat’s probably just strolling back inside after a day of hunting chipmunks in the yard. But I’m 500 miles away from home on another business trip, sinking back into a hotel room sofa with my legs stretched out... My feet resting uncomfortably on a cheap coffee table.
Today was my birthday.
The pyramid-shaped calendar that sits on the desk reads ‘October’ but the weather has been more like late-August. Outside, where a crisp autumn air would normally chill my skin, a perpetually warm and humid trend continues. Even the leaves back home, which should have by now exploded brilliantly in shades of golds, reds, and yellows, had a look of being too defeated to have even tried. I noticed this as my plane was taking off, and thought to myself then, what a long, strange year it's been.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when it all started. Maybe at some point last year around the time of the election, or maybe earlier. It’s like a fog that rolled in and somehow blanketed our days with a slowly creeping disorientation. I often thought about this over the past year, mostly on occasions when I was out running... Something I did almost every day. But I never found the clarity I was looking for. I’d simply vacillate between accepting this was either the state of our world right now, or the reality of approaching forty.
Forty is an interesting milestone. It’s not mid-life, at least I hope. I don’t think it’s mid-career, although I suppose it could be for some. Yet, forty seems substantial. It feels heavy. Worrisome, like a wrong turn, but in a kind of irreversible way. The only comparison I can draw is one that likens Year 40 to Mile 15 of a marathon. It’s this panic-inducing stage of the race when you’ve made it past the halfway marker, you’ve gotten your rhythm, but the end still seems impossibly far. You begin to worry whether you can sustain this pace; whether there will be some repercussion for going out too fast; whether this race will be the one where it all comes together, just like you imagined, or if this will be the one where it all falls apart.
I didn’t turn forty today, but I will soon. Just 365 days from now, and this is literally the first time I’ve ever thought this much about a birthday. But sitting here, now, beginning this journey, I’m trying to play it cool. I'm trying to act like it's going to be just another year. As I try to convince myself of this, messages of Happy Birthday! continue streaming in from my social feeds on my iPhone. Each one, another reminder that this is happening whether I want it to or not.
I realize that tomorrow I will be one day into this thing. One day forward, with only 364 days before forty.