My 51st Birthday

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Hello, year 51!

Yes, today I turn 51 years of age. It is an anti-climactic day in light of last year: turning 50 years of age is momentous, turning 51 is just another year. 55 will be more of a marker, and my 60th birthday will be a huge landmark — not to mention turning 70, if I even make it that far.

I am not big on my birthday as a “big deal.” A quiet celebration with close family suffices. A birthday is yet another day in the year for me. I keep a low profile. None of my social media feeds acknowledges my birthday. I tell nobody at work. I don’t mention it to my students.

What I am big on is trying to choose to live the life I want — on my birthday, yes, but on all the other days, too. To choose the life that suits me. I read recently of people who made a huge deal about turning 50. They wanted just about everyone they knew at their fiftieth birthday party; a large attendance was a big deal. It was important to them. I had very few to my fiftieth birthday party, and I did not want a large party. Some seemed confused to hear me say this. “Who is going to throw you the big party you deserve when you turn 50? Don’t you want one!?!” they asked.

A trend I have seen is to make a huge deal of certain holidays. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, 4th of July. Birthdays. Grand parties and elaborate preparations and attendance lists. It is as if daily life is rough, and so we need to prepare for and look forward to certain peak days; then one relapses to the quotidian, the daily struggle of life. I would prefer to make less of holidays and more of the rest of the days of the year — to live happily on a daily basis, and so the need for peak days could be less.

My experience has been that with each decade I am a little happier with who I am. I feel more comfortable in my own skin. I need less. I am happy to enjoy a good meal. To luxuriate in the wake of a strenuous workout. To write a good paragraph. To enjoy an idea artfully expressed. To greet my wife and give her a hug. It does not take much.

And in this spirit today was a good day. The spring sun shone down warm on my face. There are only eight days of class left until final exams (and then summer break). My health is excellent. At my birthday party yesterday as I blew out the candles on my cake I made the same quick prayer I always make: “May my family remain happy!”

Life is good.

Happy birthday, Richard.

Let’s see how well I can spend my time and use my energy in this next trip around the sun!

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