What’s in a number?

I’m not sure what it is, but I know that everyone, at least once in their life goes through some ambivalence about a birthday, if not several.  Often it is a milestone, but sometimes it is just a random, weird, off year.   I know for my mom, it was 60 (even though she didn’t look a day over 50).  I know for my good friend Blanca it was 30, when she started counting backwards…at least until she hit 21.  And for me, it is the weird, off year of 34.

Today is my 34th birthday and I have to admit, there is something about it I’m not crazy about.  I never have problems with birthdays.  As a matter of fact, I’ve always looked immensely forward to them and have taken any and every opportunity to celebrate to the hilt.  I don’t know whether it is because I’m officially in my mid-30s or I’m officially out of my early-30s or if it has nothing to do with the actual number, but this year…I’m not feeling it.

I guess there is something about birthdays that reminds us that the clock is uni-directional and as a result, we are faced with the reality that we are getting older. I believe we all have preconceived notions of what certain ages ‘look like’ and when they come around, we are flooded with ideas of what they represent and where we should be in life…or maybe where we don’t want to be in life.  Although I can’t say I ever remember thinking about 34 in particular, I must have had some subconscious or even unconscious perspectives rummaging around inside my brain: a time to get serious…a time to be settled…a time when life gets a little more predictable.   Well, I was wrong…my life couldn’t be further away from this.

Believe me, I’m not complaining.  In a sense, I’m thankful for my youthful lifestyle.  I love the fact that I still randomly sing karaoke every once in awhile.  I enjoy the ability to be spontaneous and to have the freedom that I do.  I am thrilled I’m in great shape.  I enjoy not having a five year plan professionally and I enjoy having few commitments in my life.  But still, 34 makes me feel that this will change.  Life might become less exciting…it might become somewhat predictable…it will require decisiveness.  What’s worse, I worry that this change will occur because it has to: with age comes more responsibility…with age comes more financial pressures…with age comes more potential health issues…with age comes a sense of urgency to ‘arrive,’ ‘succeed’ and ‘do everything you have imagined.’

Well, I’m not ready for it.  I don’t want to change.  I want to freeze time at this point in my life, and keep looking for the next thing to achieve, to experience, to live through.  I want to keep succeeding and I don’t want life to change because I’m older.

So how do we cope with getting older when we don’t want to?  For some, it is purely superficial: botox, magic potions and plastic surgery.  For me, it is about maintaining the lifestyle that I want to and not paying the price for stalled decisions (like having children).  It is the ability to take my time and to be ambivalent when I want to.  It is the ability to make mistakes and learn many lessons over time, without the feeling that I need to know better because I’m a full grown adult.  I want to love, live and learn continually…getting better each day.  I want to feel like a teenager all over again…and again and again.  I want to experience new things and explore the world and I want to abandon age as a defining element of my being.

I guess when it comes down to it, what really is in a number anyway?  Each of us have our own answer to that.  For me, it has to mean nothing…nothing at all.


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  • Nic

    I had a bit of a quarter-life crisis when I turned 20. Perhaps it was being out of the teenage years, perhaps it was the whole having a zero on the end of my age, I don’t know but for some reason it really bothered me.

    And my cure was to go out in the snow and have a huge snowball fight with everyone I could possibly rope in. And as it happened, there were more adults there than kids. I made a snowman, snow angels, the works.

    Whenever you find yourself thinking “I’m too old for that”, do it anyway. (Within reason) Particularly if it’s going to make people raise their eyebrows. You’ll feel a lot younger, trust me. :)

    • Brett

      Great advice. I think I still think I’m in my 20s :)

  • forrest

    its just a number as i have thought i was dead last yr. this time but GOD seen to keep me going for something & im grateful. hope yoy all have same idea & dreams come true

  • Eunicd

    I will be 80 years “young” next month and am celebrating by taking a trip to Paris and a river boat cruise in the south of France.

  • sandy

    I am 74 and can happily say I have done most of the things in life I wished for (including learning to fly at 50) I say ‘happily” because I had a stroke 2 years ago and the numbers don’t mean anything! Now, I take life one day at a time and am greatful for my family. They are everything to me (2 grown sons -3 beautiful grandchildren and a loving caring husband for 52 years) Life is what you make it.

  • http://www.sheerbalance.com Brett

    Love your ideas! Definitely will start implementing them this year!

  • http://www.jillbraverman.com Jill Braverman

    Happy Birthday, Brett! I have a ritual that I complete every year on my Birthday that helps me celebrate. I make a list of all the great things that have happened to me since my last birthday- all the successes, all the new experiences, all the courageous decisions I made, the lessons I learned- all the good stuff. Then I make a list of all of the new things I want to manifest and try in the upcoming year. Sometimes I’m amazed when I look back at my lists. But mostly it’s just a process that helps me see my Birthday for what it is- a day to celebrate my life, a life that happens every moment of every day…not just on my Birthday! Anyway, 34 is a great year…welcome to the club!