Five days from now, my internal odometer rolls over. Sounds dramatic for surviving another spin around the sun, doesn’t it? (Not that THAT doesn’t sound like hyperbole) Some people look forward to their birthdays – usually those under a certain age. Others? We see that day on the calendar as a Sword of Damocles situation. Is this going to be the year our beacon flashes? Or will we get to run around a little longer? (And if you don’t get ANY of those references, you’re clearly too young – just saying)
I’ve spent most of my life dreading my birthday. After all, who wants to celebrate the acceleration of your impending death? Seems morbid. But with age comes wisdom (ha!). And that means taking the time to reflect on the cons AND pros of birthdays.
If nothing else, it provides a nice distraction from that looming number coming for me on Friday.
Cons of Birthdays
Let’s get the negative out of the way, shall we? (I know, it’s not my usual M.O.)
What are birthdays? The mark of your increasing age. And what does that mean?
Not a ton of good things:
- Cellular death: Our bodies are only designed to last so long. The cells in our systems come with expiration dates. As we age, those cells die. And we start developing grey/white hair (fun fact: if you dye it different colors, that doesn’t show), skin changes, and temperamental digestive tracts. (So much fun)
- Energy failure: In addition to our cells crapping out, our batteries run down. The bank we start with gives out over time. It’s why we find ourselves moving slower, coming up shorter, and stopping sooner. (Yes, even if you exercise regularly)
- Memory blinks: If you haven’t invested in Post-It Notes yet, start. You’ll need them. Even the sharpest minds develop fuzzy patches the more birthdays you get under your belt. And that translates to trips to the grocery store where you stare at the shelves, wondering what you needed. (If you don’t write it down, you won’t remember it – trust me on this one)
Yes, science is working on fixing things so our clockwork mechanisms don’t run down. But they aren’t there yet. And that means each new year on your body exacts a toll.
I don’t know about you, but getting out of bed sounding like a haunted house is NOT something I aspired to as a kid! Nor was falling asleep on the couch in the middle of the day on the weekends.
And the cause? All of those extra trips around the sun.
Pros of Birthdays
But – much as it kills me to admit it – birthdays aren’t ALL bad. And I’m not even referring to the whole cake and presents side of things. (Don’t get me wrong: cake is ALWAYS awesome)
Getting older has advantages.
You just need to squint and twist your head at an angle to notice them:
- Experience: Okay, so it’s a cliche. Seriously, though, those of us with extra birthdays know more than the fresh-faced youngsters out there. We’ve already DONE it (some of us before smart phones existed – so there’s no embarrassing proof). You can’t buy experience, but everyone NEEDS it.
- Connections: The longer you live, the more people you meet. And the more people THEY know. It’s a delightful web of, “Let me put you in touch with…” that expands out through the world. Sometimes you get lucky when you’re young and meet someone famous or handy for your work. But filling out that Rolodex? Yeah, that requires time.
- Mistakes: I considered throwing “wisdom” in there, but you expected that one. (And, honestly, plenty of people see impressive birthdays and never gain a drop of wisdom) No, advanced age allows you to screw up – LOTS. So you get a chance to learn (or not). You can’t make new mistakes if you’re not adding up all of those years.
Of course, some of those mistakes lead to detrimental body issues, so you need to find a safe balance. (That’s where some wisdom helps)
Welcome to 43
I’m still not a fan of birthdays. The mental and physical reminders that I’m decaying? Yeah, not fun.
But if I set those aside and look at the intangible side of aging, I suppose things aren’t TERRIBLE. And I’ve made it (almost – five days to go) 43 years on this planet, despite everything the universe has thrown my way. That’s an impressive track record.
But do we need the downside of them? Really?
Can’t we just pick our favorite age, stay there, and have cake once a year? (Who’s with me on this?)