My birthday was last week.
It was supposed to be just another day. But all that changed when I saw the balloons, gifts, and cupcake my wife had placed on the dinning room table when I wasn’t looking. And then there was the flood of birthday messages (well, forty-seven anyway) on my Facebook profile. Apparently, I was tagged in a b-day photo my wife posted on her profile. People from near and far sent best wishes, even a few of my wife’s high school friends from decades ago.
After liking all the posts, I decided out of curiosity to see who else was born on the same day as me. In a world of over 7 billions people the chances were pretty good that someone famous celebrates their birthday on October 25.
According to a Google search, painter Pablo Picasso, political commentator James Carville, Happy Days’ star Marian Ross, retired basketball coach Bob Knight, and singers Katy Perry and Keith Urban were born on the same day as me.
Whoa! The name jumped out at me. Keith Urban? That’s pretty darn cool. “Blue Ain’t Your Color” is my wife’s favorite song.
Actually, I looked again, and Keith Urban’s birthday is October 26. Oh well, that’s close to mine.
But I drew a blank on the rest of the in-crowd. Who are these people?
The name Ciara looked familiar. She’s a singer, right? Was she on American Idol? Would I know her song if you told me? Reality stars Loren Jordan and Jeanette Cota. Hmm…were they on Survivor? Actors Tyler Alvarez and Chloe Rose. I don’t know who they are, either. Were they on Disney Channel? Felix Sandman and Ryan Clark. I have no clue. YouTuber Ben Carlin. Umm, comedian George Carlin’s son? Actually, I’m kidding. I have no idea who Ben Carlin is. Sickick. Oh, I think he’s a DJ or something. He wears a mask, right? Kristina Romanova. I don’t know, a tennis player? Garrett Blackstorm. Sounds like a basketball player. Maybe an Olympian. Was he a sprinter?
To most of you, these famous people (according to Google) probably are household names. But they are as foreign to me as Dabney Coleman and Cybill Shepherd are to my millennial sons.
After asking if Ciara is part of a band, my wife said, “Wayne, you’re so out of it.”
While such a quip would annoy some husbands, all I could do was whisper, “Yeah, you’re probably right.” My wife is nothing if not usually spot-on.
But suddenly I felt old. And things got worse. A second Google search revealed that a gallon of gas was 26 cents the day I was born, a new car $1,432, a new home $6,471, and a loaf of bread 14 cents.
Boy, now I was really feeling old.
Here’s the thing. I remember when my wife and I first had children that we were one of a group of new parents on the block. It never occurred to me that 31 years would go by in the blink of an eye. I wasn’t thinking that some day I would be an old-timer.
But we are all getting older. That means no matter how smart, fit (I run daily), and successful we are, at the end of the day we only have so many birthdays left. There’s no way around it, at least until some brilliant scientist finds a way to make death optional.
Until then, we should look at birthdays as a time to celebrate — but for different reasons than we did when we were younger.
I remember as a kid being so excited the night before my birthday that I could barely sleep. Looking back, I realize it was the thought of ice cream and cake and playing pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey that kept me awake. And, of course, opening presents. But now that I’m older, I see things differently. That the number of birthdays I have left gets smaller as my age gets bigger probably has a lot to do with it.
Further, in the game called aging I understand now far more than I did as a kid the importance of prioritizing people over presents and cake. The fact that my wife took time to decorate the dining room table with balloons meant a lot more to me than any present she could give me. But don’t get me wrong; it was nice to get the new running gear!
The more I think about it, perhaps the biggest reason my birthday still matters is that it gives me a day to be thankful for what I have.
I may be older but I find life more hectic — by my own choosing, I might add. As a member of the baby boomer generation who’s witnessed life expectancy increase dramatically over the past 2 decades, I’m actively looking to rev up my career not slow it down. Planning to be around an extra 30 or so years, I’m currently working on a new startup with one of my sons, doing some writing for Thrive Global, keeping up with friends and family, and traveling — not to mention all my other daily chores: emails, text messages, conference calls, the list goes on. To be honest, this year my birthday kind of snuck up on me. I’m so involved in everything else that I might have forgotten about my birthday if not for my wife.
And that’s the key to why birthdays are still important.
As adults, birthdays are a day to relax and celebrate the many reasons we have to be grateful. Not just the big ones but also the small ones — like the feeling I get after a run, and the moment my beagles realize I’ve come home. It doesn’t get much better than that.
In truth, no one really gets everything they want in life. But that’s not important. What really matters is whether you get everything you need. Birthdays are an opening to feel good about what you’ve accomplished even if you can’t make a down payment on that yacht you’ve always wanted.
And yes, presents are nice — but completely unnecessary as we age. If a few come your way, be happy whatever they are (unless they’re a magnifying glass and jar opener). It’s the thoughtfulness, love, and appreciation that you are accepting more than the material thing. Besides, you loved opening presents as a child, didn’t you? Of course you did.
In my case, I may have left my childhood years ago but my childhood hasn’t completely left me — despite what it says on my birth certificate I like to think that there will always be a little bit of child in me. So having some running apparel to unwrap last week was a nice touch. I might not know who Ciara is but I can still run pretty decently. Not five miles a day like I used to but three miles. I make up the other two with a walk around the lake with my beagles. Or a nap.
As for Ciara, being the curious person I am, I went to the most credible and accurate of all sources of information, Wikipedia, to look her up. We indeed do share a birthday. But the similarities stop there. She’s 32. My age is a little, ahem, a lot older than that.
According to Wikipedia, Ciara is “an American singer, songwriter, record producer, dancer, model and actress.” Wow! What an impressive resume. I decided to check out her Facebook profile just to see how she did on our birthday. Over 12,000 likes, including one from her husband, Russell Wilson. Now that’s a name I recognize. He’s QB for the Seattle Seahawks. Would it drive my number up if I follow him? Nah. Probably not. But I’m grateful for the forty-seven likes I got.
So happy birthday, Ciara. Like you, there are many birthdays ahead I’m looking forward to.
Originally published at medium.com