Growing up, each birthday was a milestone. Each birthday was a source of excitement bringing with it a set of new physical and cognitive skills that moved you farther away from being a child and closer to being an adult in your own right. Closer to the ability to act autonomously, to make your own decisions, steer your own rudder and direct your own steps.
Year 1 was momentus for moving from being an infant to a toddler, for gaining control of muscle groups that let you hold yourself up, control where you look, what you do with your hands and feet and eating solid foods.
Year 2 is even more significant - within two years you have gone from helpless, wordless and controlless to a moving, uttering, running and terrorizing little human machine. With any luck you're parroting every swear word your parents utter. Each year is more significant than the one previous. Each year counts for something and we took stock of those things that counted.
As a child, each birthday was cataloged through photographs of a cherubim-like face covered in cake icing and a near clothingless body running around the yard with balloons and laughing uncontrollably. Action shots and stills of a person in the making, being celebrated for their potential and their survival to date.
When we reach legal age, we technically become adults. We can purchase alcohol and speak for ourselves, sign contracts and move on without parental intervention. We still celebrate ourselves and our milestones, but the chronological numbers begin to pass by with little or no meaning, slowly increasing but lacking in ordinal significance.
At some point, when I wasn't paying attention, the numbers stopped meaning something. At some point my chronological age stopped being meaningful or significant to me. My subjective age is made up of my life experiences and the age I "FEEL" inside. But my subjective age and my chronological age don't match. In fact, they are at least a decade apart...
I think that in this age of longevity and healthy aging, the meaning of chronological age has shifted. "Retirement Age" is meaningless as a common reference because so many people work well past age 65. "Middle Age" is no longer life in your 40's and 50's because life expectancy is a moving target. If 40's are the new 30's, then 30's are the new 20's and so on...perhaps that's why we expect teenagers to behave like children for much longer?
All I know is, I appreciate being celebrated. I appreciate people cataloguing my birthdays, eating cake and sushi with people I love and who love me, I appreciate good wine and good company, laughter and cake icing in places it shouldn't be. I appreciate every 365 day journey around the sun that I have experienced so far and will have in the future.
I don't care about the meaningless number...I do care about how I feel inside.
I feel ALIVE.
I'm going to take my balloons for a walk in the sun as we set out on day 2 of this cycle around the sun.
Photo by DaddyPete