I turn one year older today.
And as my brother’s fiance kept telling me, all of the special birthdays are gone. All of the ones that mean something in and of themselves. No bar mitzvahs,quinceaneras, driving privileges, voting abilities, or drinking allowances left (not that I had all of those). Each year only serves as another notch on the belt. And I am okay with that.
Just as it has been for a number of years, I have resorted to thinking about my age in my own terms rather than the ones prescribed to me. I no longer rest on my age to progress me through life. I no longer count on society to push me into being an adult. I choose my own milestones, and I celebrate them as frequently as possible.
And the notches aren’t the same anymore either. I believe in the power for a single event to change my life, for a single decision to set in motion the rest of a year or longer with both intended and unintended consequences. The notches I make now aren’t the small notches that time makes. They are big and unmistakable. They are ones that speak to where I have been and what I have done. I burn my notches as if I were branding or I cut them deeply, with precision, knowing that I can never take them back.
So, this year, I am working on a few notches that will set in motion the next few years of my life. And no longer being bound to measure my life in years, that feels pretty good.
As I look back on what I wrote about my intended notches in 2006 I notice a few things:
1. I will have a child. (Two, now)
2. I will have a master’s degree. (Nope)
3. I will have a book published. (Working on it. As I type, in fact.)
4. I will have a salary that makes my family’s life comfortable. (I hope so.)
5. I will have a cd pressed. (Totally fallen off the radar.)
And that is the funny thing about notches. Until you actually make them, they aren’t worth a whole bunch. They are the same goals that everyone else is making. They are the same aspirations that drive millions of people to go after more experience. Yet, until you have them accomplished, until the strange and finite events have transpired, they don’t really exist. They aren’t really yours.
So, while it may be a small notch today in getting one year older, know that much bigger notches are coming. And when they do happen, I will be taking the careful time to make them known through the careful process of scraping off the top layer of leather and watching the shavings fall to the ground, then digging in deeper and making exacting cuts against the well-worn grain until I can see through to the light of day, my knife having done an admirable act in connecting me with the other side.
Oh, and I’ll probably write about it too.
happy birthday Ben.
you didn't get a barcode tattoo did you..
I sure didn't. I think that is taking the exercise a little far. Notches on
belts are more my style.
I think I told you about how my uncle admitted he hadn't thought he'd live to see 30. It struck my by surprise because it's not as though my family participates in any illicit activity.
In a meeting the other day, someone said, “What 17-year-old boy doesn't think he's going to die in the next five years?”
It was an off-hand remark meant as a joke, but I had to fight the urge to raise my hand and say, “Me. I didn't think I was going to die.”
Earlier today, I looked up the phrase “many happy returns.”
It's one of those that I've understood in spirit, but not completely.
Though it's come to be commonly used around birthdays, the phrase was originally meant as a salutation to mark happy days as a wish that those moments would recur.
I like the idea.
As you walk through this year, in those moments of great joy, I wish you many happy returns.
I feel like the two parts of this comment are quite different than one
another, but maybe not so much.
I will have happy returns. I promise, but only on the moments of my
Oh, and I didn't think I was going to die at 17. In fact, 17 was probably
the best year I had up until that point. I had no reason to believe that it
wasn't going to continue on that way forever.