What’s in a birthday? Upon waking up this am, it dawned on me that my 74th birthday was just a few days away. So what is in a birthday? I have had 73 others so one would expect that I could expound on the meaning and ramifications of these annual events. I suppose that I can define a birthday by the presents – I have had more ties than I can remember, or the parties – all 3 of them after birthday 16. On birthday 16 my parents took some friends and me to an ice skating party where John McDermott skated over his index finger and nearly cut it off. Ruined the party. John never liked me anyway. For my 22nd birthday I received my draft notice, at least Uncle Sam noticed. I can’t remember many birthdays in which I didn’t work.
My supposition then is that the meaning of birthday is more esoteric than presents, or parties, or even events. They are a reflective measure of life passages. While our passages ebb and flow fitfully, sometimes in linear progression, sometimes in a circular motion folding back upon themselves, other times in regression, we rarely remain static. Only the dead are truly static. We on the other hand usually live our lives in episodes connected by periods of quiet or inactivity.
I have seen a truism quoted in several classes that between the time one begins work and when one retires, if indeed we do, 74% of average persons are employed in a career field other than the original. Its been quite a long time since workers retired from their original employer. The majority of people move more than 6 times during their lifetime. The list of changes is nearly infinite.
One can reflect on each life change as a discrete event disconnected from previous events and not reflected in subsequent activities. However, I believe that each passage provides a connection to another passage. Some may be profound, others opaque. Some passages may continually influence subsequent passages, others merely add a passing context.
As an example, I grew up in a segregated city in Kentucky. I was shunned because I was verbal about the immorality of the system. As a result I learned to be by myself. I was never invited to parties, was attacked on the playground, schoolmates were told not play wth me. I learned to keep my own company. In the current milieu of distancing I am ok with being on my own. I do try to socialize as much as I could. I pick activities that are neutral but social, such as pickleball. However I will never expound on my deep thoughts. I keep them to myself because I have been a target by speaking out in the past.
I have made a passage into writing which suits me well during the COVIT 19 pandemic. I have made a passage into volunteer work, which provides some internal satisfaction. I have been providing counsel to friends during negative times, as well as encouraging others to stretch themselves by applying themselves in new adventures. I even provide assistance to expedite the process.
As I approach age 74 I reviewed all the changes I have made over time, some good, some bad, some downright dangerous, yet I am comfortable with where I am. I have more changes in mind, more passages to move through. I reject stasis. I embrace ebb and flow.