I say “nothing” birthday because there is no social achievement that I’m unlocking by turning 32. 31 was the first “nothing” birthday. Neither is a significant number. 30 was the last big one, and from here on in, the achievements stagger themselves by decade: the next big one is 40. Of course, Jesus performed most of his miracles when he was 33, but I’d rather not wait that long, personally.
I don’t care about 32, but there is a difference between me and almost everyone else I know around this age. Many differences, if my Facebook feed is any indicator.
Since moving home almost two years ago, and with my oldest friends four cities away to the west, Facebook is really my lifeline to them much of the time. Most of my like-aged friends have houses, go to cottages, work nine to fives, and otherwise earn what my twentysomething friend Nikki calls “grown up gold stars”. At least eight of my peers got married this year, and a couple of them have kids. These are the things I see in my newsfeed.
By contrast, I seem to have more in common with my twentysomething friends, but just barely. Living at home, working jobs outside their formal training and mostly in retail and service, wearing casual clothes much of the time and enjoying a shit-ton of hipsterish delights – indie music, Instagram, web-speak, etc.. The key difference between me and many of the twentysomethings I know is that I’ve had the experience of doing the “grown up” stuff, and they’re just easing into it. Oh, and back pain. That’s starting to be a thing.
Still, I find it easier to relate to the predominantly single, mobile, and more youthful – in attitudes and energy if not in physical age – people in my life than most of the thirtysomethings who seem to be closer to 40 in their health, energy levels, and attitudes. There are only so many livingroom wine tastings I can tolerate before I feel like heading out to the bar.
Lifestyle comparisons are silly and pointless, in any case, and cause you to generalize: not every thirtysomething acts like a country club member, and not twentysomething has childlike energy and wonder.
A common remark I hear from my older friends I’ve known over the years is that people they’ve known – mostly romantic exes of theirs – have made it their purpose to remain “forever young”. Despite physical age, they want to stay 25 or even younger as long as humanly possible. My older friends would talk about these people as if they were lepers, associating youth with immaturity and bad decisions. But I feel that you feel better about life when you’re in your twenties, especially if you pursue a career in the creative industries and forsake, in the short term, the suburban lifestyle that our society associates with “success” (houses, spouses, cars, and kids). Who wouldn’t want to hold onto that as long as humanly possible?
Of course, you also have to contend with inexperience, debt, crippling poverty, menial jobs, and people treating you like what you love isn’t relevant or worth being paid for: don’t think I’m just blowing sunshine up your ass right now. There are unique sets of challenges for every demographic, and a few shared ones that transcend walks of life.
But in the end, I think I, too, would much rather live like I was 25 and free, if a little broke and listless, than live like I was 35 or 40 with all the goodies, but feeling “grown up” and stuck. A false dichotomy, once again, that I’m only using to make a point: I really believe great wealth doing what I love is on its way, but you get the idea.
I’m as excited for today and the Now as I am for the future. This is a marked shift from years past when birthdays seemed a time to mourn. I’m not bouncing off the walls excited, mind you, but I’m pretty happy with where I’m at. Maybe I should be more excited. I’m sure I will be.
PS: Speaking of excitement, here’s me at my first “book signing”. I had my writer’s guild meeting on Wednesday at my house, and through serendipity, the first 20 copies of my novel Convergence arrived on my doorstep. As the group members who showed up stood in line for their signed copies, it took a minute to hit me that this was only the first of many in my future. Shit got real. At that point, I flipped out. I think I might have actually Kermit-flailed. No pictures of that, sadly for you. 🙂