It’s February the 11th. That means that tomorrow is my birthday.
I don’t know what your birthday means to you. Perhaps you don’t think about them much and they are just another day of the year. Perhaps you treat your birthday as a time to look back and reflect on how far you’ve come in the last year. Perhaps you treat your birthday as something of a New Year’s type event complete with new resolutions for the coming year.
The last few years I’ve found the event of my birthday to become something a bit different than it used to be.
When I was younger I couldn’t wait for the next birthday. Another year added to my age meant that I was one year closer to… well… whatever it is that makes grownups so special.
The Anticipation Years
For a long time I wanted to be able to hunt and fish by myself. I turned twelve and could do that. There is something really refreshing about spending an evening in the woods.
Then it was my driver’s license. Fifteen brought the year of the learners permit. Things happened a bit different then than they do now. I guess its part of learning. I once waited for someone, coming the other way, to turn into the road I was going to turn into. Only I decided to let them go first when I was halfway pulled into the road we were both heading towards. I could have kept on going just fine. But no… I put the truck in reverse and backed up to wait for the oncoming vehicle.
Sixteen meant that I was old enough to join the youth group at my local church. I spent the first year or so trying to decide whether to be petrified or to enjoy myself. It was a full time job [in my mind] to do my best to fit in.
You get the idea. I imagine your life has been somewhat similar. You’ve had to wait for things because you were too young. You’ve experienced the way things become normal after a bit of time.
And Then Things Changed
Sure, being young and full of energy is great, but at some point I kind of got over the desire to “grow up.” It wasn’t that I wanted to stay nineteen forever. [That would be a scary proposition on many levels.] But my desire for things cloaked in the mystery of the future started to fade.
Because I found that it’s hard. Becoming who you are going to be takes work.
At some point along the way you think you are getting close to where you want to be and who you believe you are meant to be… and then you discover that it is only another stepping stone.
All that to say, I don’t know where I’m going all the time. I do know that each day brings about new opportunities to work towards the future. I say the future because I don’t know that there is a goal. A lot of times we believe that we are working daily to reach some mythical “ultimate goal” in life. What we are missing is the journey. The day to day bit of the story that unfolds so frequently we can begin to get bored by it.
What I Will Do For My Birthday
So what am I going to be doing to celebrate the 26th anniversary of my birth?
I hope that it is somewhat of a normal day. I will be working at least some of the day.
But I do want to spend some time thinking and writing. Because that is how I process things the best. If I just think about something it can be helpful, but when I take the time to write down some of those thoughts I find some kind of extra clarity.
I’ve heard of people who write a letter to themselves every year. The letter is then sealed in an envelope and opened the following year. I kind of like that idea. I hope to start doing that myself.
However one thing that I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately is that life is short. None of us knows how long we have. None of us knows what all “great” things we can do with the time that we have left.
A Few Thoughts About Making Each Day the Best Possible
I saw a video recently about Steve Gleason. Steve was a professional football player for the New Orleans Saints. He played on special teams and came up with a huge blocked punt a few years ago against the Atlanta Falcons. The blocked punt resulted in a touchdown for the Saints, the first touchdown in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina.
Steve found out a couple of years later that he had ALS. I don’t know a whole lot about ALS, except that it is a disease that usually kills within a few years. At any rate, in the video about Steve he was giving an interview and said something along these lines, “I live every day knowing that what the doctors say could be true. I might not be here to watch my son grow up. I think about dying because I’m faced with it daily. Because of that I live each day without holding back. People should think about dying more often, because it helps us realize what a gift today is.” [Please note that this is not a direct quote. This is me putting into words what I remember of what Steve said. However I believe the overall message matches what Steve said fairly well.]
So I’ve been thinking some about dying. Not in a morbid sense, but rather because it helps me to see what is important about the things I do every day. I hope that I can keep this kind of perspective active in my mind on a daily basis.
One of the big things that can come out of this kind of thought process is a bit of a better understanding of the value of those around us. People are ultimately what matter in life. Those people who are special enough to love us just like we are. Those people we love regardless of what kinds of things might happen or no matter how many times they do something to irritate us. And then there are those who we’ve not yet met. Those people who are valuable in God’s eyes. Not because of anything they have done or own, but rather simply because they exist. People and relationships are the one currency whose stock price will never plummet. Invest in things that last. [And try to diversify your portfolio if possible.]
I’ll be honest, ten years ago I thought a lot of things would be different at 26. I had the idea that I would be making loads of money doing things that I loved, probably most of the scenarios I had running around in my mind had me married with a kid or two. The basic “American dream.” If I look at the picture I had back then my life now is a mess. In fact I could begin to think that I’ve failed in the most massive of ways.
But that isn’t how I’m choosing to look at where I am now and where I’m going each day.
There have been major disappointments along the way, sure. There have also been some incredible experiences that I wouldn’t change or trade for the world.
The rules have changed somewhat. But the basics are still pretty much the same.
- Every day is a gift. Given to me [and you] by the awesome creator of the universe.
- Life still isn’t about the physical reality that we know and love. Life is about what is inside of me and inside of you.
- People and relationships are worth more than any earthly possession.
- The things I do today will lead to where I will be in 10 years. Junk in will equal junk out. Good in will equal good out.
I don’t know what all is going to happen in the coming year. But I do know that if I show up each day and work hard… the next year is full of nothing but possibilities.
And with that I leave you today. I hope the next year brings me into more contact with some of you. I’ve met a few really incredible people through the blog and my online ventures. I hope you’ll stick around and be a part of my 26th year of life.
P.S. I have been doing some thinking… Thursday’s post will have a few announcements. Feel free to come back and see about those!
P Johnson says
Happy Birthday! I appreciate the thoughts you put into writing.
Eldon Yoder says
Thanks! I do enjoy putting words down on paper… sometimes they make more sense than other times. 🙂