At 4:37 a.m. Central Time, I turned 35.
I’m completely unfazed. I’m less interested and less affected by the occasion than anticipated.
But the build-up to today in my head was a little bit bigger than other birthdays.
Because even though the only constant in this life is change, this is my first birthday where everything feels different.
Statistically speaking, if life’s a race, I’m at the halfway point.
I am mathematically likely to die between the ages of 70-71, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
I’m not to a place in life where I spend a lot of time worrying about that. In fact, none at all. I always try to stay aware (unsuccessfully) that my clock could stop ticking any second. It’s hard to live passionately and with purpose if you’re not always aware of how precious life and time really are.
I am the sentimental sort. Always have been.
I am acutely aware of certain meaningful anniversaries. I like flipping the calendar on New Year’s. And I tend to think of birthdays like our own personal New Year’s. An opportunity to grow. To have a better year than the last.
Turning 30 was a pretty big milestone in a lot of ways.
I had been married five years. We just had our son. I was employed in a different industry.
I don’t remember how I felt on my 30th birthday. But I tend to always think five years down the road. About the metaphorical tomorrow.
Divorce Changes Everything
My wife and I used to talk about it a lot.
We’d learn of friends having marital problems. And there were others who seemed destined to have them. And of course, there were those wearing their masks, pretending everything was okay.
She and I would be driving around, or sitting at the dinner table, or hanging out in the living room.
The math said about half of our friends’ marriages wouldn’t make it.
But who? Certainly not ours! We love each other too much. That could never happen.
Maybe them, we’d say about a particular couple. Or possibly them, we’d say about others.
But not us.
We said it a bunch of times.
But here we are. Five years later.
And it was us.
It was me.
And now 35 feels so much bigger. If life was still “normal,” today would be even more of a non-issue than I consider it now. I don’t feel particularly weird. On the inside of me. There is more peace with the milestone than anticipated.
But that five-year plan? Gone.
And now there must be a new one. At least, that’s what my brain wants to do. It always wants this nice and neat and safe five-year plan where I have my eye on some end goal. Something to chase and work for.
And at age 35, I don’t have that.
I have absolutely no idea what my life might look like five years from now.
That has always been true.
But I just didn’t know it until now. And that’s the great lesson for me today. The reminder that our plans don’t always work out the way we want them to, or thought they might. That we are not promised tomorrow at all.
But the Sun Will Rise
With or without me.
The earth will spin. The sun will rise.
That’s my gift this year. And it’s my favorite gift of any I might receive. That growth. That maturity. That knowledge.
I thought of an important math equation on my drive to work this morning. I’m probably not the first person to come up with it:
My Choices + Time = Today
And acknowledgement of that equation—that truth—is my gift today.
I am here because of my choices combined with the natural course of time.
And wherever I am on my 40th birthday will be determined in large part by whatever My Choices are moving forward.
In my career. In my friendships. With my family. And in my romantic pursuits.
And I’m getting sweet and thoughtful “Happy Birthday” text messages from girls I didn’t know 365 days ago.
Because the future is uncertain.
Because life happens.
Chuck Noland said it in Cast Away.
“And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?”
But for sure—opportunity.
If I wake, tomorrow happened.
Because anything can happen.
And a lot of those possibilities are really good.