Mixed feelings on my 62nd birthday

Today is my 62nd birthday. I’m hoping for a low-key day, but that’s not likely to happen.

Birthdays have never been too special for me. My younger sister was born three years and one day after me, which meant that, while growing up, the specialness of “my” day evaporated pretty quickly.

I did share a birthday with an uncle. Although he died a few years ago, it was nice to have a birthday twin in that regard. Wherever I was in the country on Aug. 20, I could count on chatting with him.

For the most part, birthdays seem to be holy days of obligation where people who don’t generally connect with me 364 days of the year, suddenly feel required to recognize my birthday. Sometimes I can’t tell if it’s because they’re happy for me making another trip around the sun, or lamenting that I actually lived another year.

When kids are growing up, each birthday needs to be celebrated because so much changes in their lives from year to year. Mentally, physically, emotionally and intellectually, children truly are different from one year to the next. However, the older we get, it seems the things that change in our lives aren’t really worth celebrating.

My grandmother had the best perspective regarding her 98 years on Earth. She compared birthdays to water going down a drain. When you’re younger, each revolution seems painfully slow. But, the older you get, the years seems to fly by, one after another — swish, swish, swish.

I cannot imagine living another 36 years to reach her age. In fact, it’s hard to fathom making it another 20 years. Why is it that 20 years in the future doesn’t seem that far away? Yet, when we look back at all that has happened in the previous 20 years, the experiences we have had are absolutely stunning.

Twenty years ago, my daughters we 13, 15 and 16. I was married and living in Wisconsin. I had a wonderful job as a magazine editor, but I was often bored out of my mind by the lack of things to do every day.

In 20 years, I ushered three girls out the door, but welcomed three sons-in-law. I lost three foster granddaughters due to problems with the Illinois foster care system, but today I have four biological grandchildren.and my foster grandson is about to permanently join our family.

Since 2022, I have been divorced, bankrupt, moved to Arizona, blew up one car while towing it and had another totaled by distracted driver. I lived in an RV full-time for three years and visited all 48 continental states at least once. I was able to take two cruises and make a trip to Europe where I got to connect with our Polish foreign exchange student and her daughter, as well as visit the very farm in Switzerland were my father’s father was born.

I started one business, watched it thrive and then saw it disappear due to a situation beyond my control. I started another business that is just gaining momentum right now. I learned how to podcast and wrote three books.

All that to say, there is still a lot left for you to accomplish and experience in the days you’ve been allotted.

Some years, birthdays are a sad affair in that they remind me how little I accomplished in the previous year. Many times have I made birthday resolutions to do this or that in the year ahead, eliminate one bad habit and replace it with a good one. Reflecting on those failures can be daunting some years.

Yet, I have now lived 15 years longer than my father, and have been able to watch my own daughters grow into pretty incredible women with thriving families of their own. I was able to meet all of my grandchildren, which is something my father was unable to do.

This year has special meaning because it has been a full year since I conceived of the idea for Forward From 50 with the help of a mentor, Vincent Pugliese. During the previous four years, I was caught in a nasty rut without a sense of purpose strong enough to motivate me every day.

For that reason alone, this birthday is worth celebrating!

In fact, every birthday should be a good reminder that as long as we have breath in our lungs and a beating heart, there is still something important for us to do. If you don’t agree, I’ll be happy to help you find a purpose for the second half of your life.

Don’t allow another year to go by where you lament the woulda, shoulda, couldas of a wasted year. I’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt and souvenir cup. It’s not a very good state of mind to be caught in.

So, here’s to another productive year of making a difference in the lives of others!

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash