Birthday Retrospective, Part XXXVIII

On Monday I transitioned from a defensible “mid thirties” to unambiguously “late thirties.” I’m more sanguine about the prospect than I might have been a few years ago. Let’s explore why.
First, the last year has been ridiculously busy. I can’t ever recall being this consistently overwhelmed with stuff to do. It started late last October, continued through National Novel Writing Month, persisted through the December holidays and never slowed down. I don’t get days off or weekends off anymore. Yet the stress from doing all that extra stuff is counterbalanced by a sense of mission and progress that’s refreshing. It’s a good kind of busy, for the most part. There’s a method to the madness.
Second, I’m in better physical shape today than I was a decade ago. When I turned 28, I was morbidly obese and on track for a cornucopia of early-onset chronic diseases. Although my calendar’s insanity lately has meant that my waistline has increased a wee bit, I’m healthier today than a decade ago. And that’s a good thing.
Third, my attitude on life has significantly changed. The “been there, done that” sense of serenity about life’s little problems means that the level of daily drama I allow myself to endure has plummeted. The long view makes more sense now than it did several years ago, and the existential stress about aging has given way to recognizing that in the long corridor of life, some doors open, some close — and some open or closed based on the lock status of yet other doors. The path to joy reveals itself in the knowledge that it’s OK if Circumstance bolts some doors, provided you tread boldly across the threshold of newly unbolted doors.
Every year over the eight or so years I’ve run this blog, I’ve written a birthday retrospective. As I look back at prior stories, I’m struck by how adolescent some of them are. When you have the privilege of free time to luxuriate in faux-sophisticated existential angst, I suppose it’s no surprise that faux-sophisticated existential angst should appear on blog posts. When you get to the point when you’re working 14-hour days doing Grown Up work and concede you can’t keep up with everything, then those little luxuries vanish. And when they vanish, so also does the mindset that underlay them.
My 37th year was marked by progress that prompts stretch goals for even more progress:

  • I accepted a promotion at work, leaving me with a nice raise and six FTE — as well as a lot of opportunity to grow our team’s portfolio. The next challenge is to make ourselves indispensable to senior leadership.
  • I wrote a novel. The next challenge is to finish the editing and shop it for publication.
  • I bought my dive gear and got back in the water. The next challenge is to earn master diver certification.
  • I started, with a group of friends, a publishing house. The next challenge is to bring it to profitability.
  • I attended the Michigan Republican county and state conventions as a delegate. The next challenge is to continue to grow with local political leaders.
  • I became president-elect of the Michigan Association for Healthcare Quality, with responsibility for executing next week’s 1.5-day state educational conference in Traverse City. The next challenge is to pull off a more significant conference next October in Grand Rapids.
  • I attended various Las Vegas events with other podcasters. The next challenge is to keep those relationships healthy and enduring.

The world is awash in oysters ready to be cracked, but the full flowering of success comes when people realize that the possibilities that seemed so important in their youth aren’t the things that are important later in life.

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