I recently celebrated the 36th of my birthdays. The realization that I’m now one year older makes me think a lot about where I am in life. That’s a pretty natural response to birthdays, I think.
We all have goals, right? Especially around our birthdays, we entertain high expectations. It’s not just about having an elaborate birthday party or people treating us better than usual. We want to accomplish x, y, and z by the time we reach certain birthdays. Who here recalls Phoebe Buffay’s 31st birthday celebration on Friends? She thinks she’s turning 30, but when visiting her estranged twin Ursula to wish her a happy birthday, she learns that they’re actually (gasp!) 31.
Such a revelation would make anyone question their life path. Phoebe laments, “I haven’t done any of the things I wanted to do by the time I turned 31.” Of course there’s humor in that concept (most of us make to-do lists for more common milestone ages such as 21 or 40). Phoebe wanting to meet a Portuguese person or have the perfect kiss by age 31 seems rather random, but aren’t all of our age goals kind of arbitrary? How do we determine that we want to be married before age 30, or own a house before 40, or become company president by age 45?
There’s an emotional weight involved in reaching a certain age. We attach meaning to every age, and our perception of each age changes as we approach it. One of my students woefully told me last spring that since she had just turned 16, her life would just go downhill from there. Boy, did I feel old when I heard that!
Remember when age 18 seemed like the promised land? Or when you assumed age 25 would be the age you’d instantly have it all together? I know that as I approach and then pass up certain years of age, my views of that age are always different from what I’d expected. I certainly thought that by age 36, I’d be much wiser than I feel right now.
Birthdays, like New Year’s Eve, prompt a lot of introspection, at least for me. Around my birthday, I ponder some of the bigger questions of existence. Why am I here? Am I fulfilling my potential? Where am I failing? Where am I now, compared to this time last year?
Sometimes the birthday pensiveness is dangerous. Nothing like a little pressure from yourself to do better than the year before. I turned on Flipboard this A.M. and came across a Forbes article on entrepreneurs under age 18. Yep, these kids are all less than half my age and have already started successful businesses. Thank you, Flipboard, for making me feel like I’ve done nothing with my life!
I’m kidding, mostly. Bravo for those kid entrepreneurs and the ways they’re changing the world. I have to stay away from the comparison game. I may not be an innovator, but it’s not as if I’ve been sitting around playing video games in my parents’ basement since high school. My life’s had plenty of positive changes since then.
Reasons To Be Proud/Grateful
I taught high school for fourteen years, which gave me a lot of really awesome experiences in the classroom. Introducing teens to another language and culture is not exactly the worst way to earn a living. It’s what I’ll probably return to once my kids are a little older.
I’ve traveled to England, France, Germany, Spain, Haiti, and Costa Rica. Seeing such gorgeous parts of the world and meeting fascinating people has been a blessing.
I’ve run three marathons. (The most recent was in 2008, which seems a lifetime ago. Today, I feel like a 10K may be as far as I’ll ever run again!)
I’ve met and married an incredibly patient, generous, loving guy. We’re learning and growing as we raise two healthy, energetic little boys.
Now that I’m away from the classroom, my own kids keep me busy. We are adjusting to the mundane sweetness of spending every day together. It’s not perfect, but it’s perfectly grace-filled. Here are a few shots of us on my birthday.
Exploring a local forest preserve
Watching geese head south
Pet store! These two love animals!
Goals Yet to Achieve
Birthdays can also provide positive pressure. Give us the extra motivation we might need to kick-start our goal achievement. Of course, I have plenty of hopes and dreams for the coming years! This is a good thing; if you stop dreaming, what’s the point of living?
The ultimate and ongoing goal is always growing closer to God. Faith must grow through daily walking with the Lord, studying the Bible, prayer, and service. Honoring God with everything I am and everything I do is of utmost priority.
Writing a book has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. I have begun many book-writing projects that I have yet to complete. So that’s number one in things I will accomplish eventually. Published or not.
Other goals are primarily for fun (and still important!):
- Learning to speak Spanish.
- Learning to play the guitar.
- Visiting many of our national parks.
Some goals are mainly financially oriented:
- Running my own business.
- Paying off our home early.
- Assisting our kids, nieces, and nephews with higher-education expenses.
- Retire or partially retire by late forties/early fifties.
- Give with outrageous generosity.
Unlike Phoebe, I haven’t put an arbitrary deadline on most of my goals just yet. For some of them, I know I’ll have to become more focused in order to make them happen (like the book-writing). And no matter what, I want to be flexible and recognize that we’re always growing and changing, so goals are bound to evolve too!
Life is a precious gift. My hope is that each one of you reading this is able to pursue the passions that fulfill you. For today, what’s the primary purpose in my life? They’re right here.
What’s on your list? What do you hope to accomplish in the next year, 5 years, 10 years, and beyond?