Days Until I Am Married: 40
Current Weight: 172
Today is my twenty-ninth birthday. My feelings about my birthday are conflicted; it has always been both a blessing and a curse.
My birthday usually falls on Labor Day weekend, which really sucked when I was a kid. Opening presents both at the end of summer and few days before I returned to school was always difficult. At most I had three days to ensure He-Man’s defeat of Skeletor before being forced to learn cursive against my will.1
During my college years the Labor Day birthday was fantastic. Having a birthday the second week of school meant no one had homework and everyone still had money to go out. I had a huge birthday blowout four years in a row.
Currently my Labor Day birthday has translated into having a paid day off to turn twenty-nine. Not a bad deal. After a weekend that involved watching the kick-off of college football season2, a boat ride in the Gulf and birthday party with family, and two solid nites of drinking with friends in Sarasota, I spent my birthday with Megan enjoying fine dining.
Megan returned to Florida for my birthday after having spent the weekend in St. Louis for her bachelorette party/wedding shower. We had lunch in Tampa and I consumed the best coconut-crème pie known to man. Megan stayed in Tampa to attend a conference, and I drove four-plus hours3 back to Tallahassee.
Now I am sitting at my computer enjoying my favorite beer, Carlsberg, and pondering the number twenty-nine. Here is where the true conflict arises.
I spent most my twenty-ninth birthday contemplating the significance of growing a year older. This practice dates back to my twenty-second birthday. Every year since then I have tried to pinpoint exactly what turning a year older means to me. This usually involves an intense period of self-reflection. For example, I spent my twenty-fifth birthday walking around Sunset Strip in Hollywood by myself trying to figure out the direction of my life. This year my thoughts were consumed with the concept of youth. I determined that twenty-nine is the last year that I can consider myself young. This is a difficult reality to accept.
Looking back, I spent all of my teenage years trying to prove how mature I was despite my age. I spent the early-to-mid part of my twenties enjoying the benefits of youth with minimal drawbacks. This carefree feeling lasted until my twenty-seventh birthday.
Twenty-seven freaked me out for two reasons. First off, twenty-seven has signaled the demise of people far greater than me. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison died during their twenty-seventh year. They managed greatness by twenty-seven; I managed to complete half of my Master’s degree.
Second, twenty-seven signaled the entrance into my late twenties. If 20-23 is the early-twenties, then 24-26 is the mid-twenties, and 27-29 is the late twenties. In my mind the late twenties involved accepting my own mortality.
The late twenties is the last bastion of youth. Twenty-five was the last time that growing a year older was beneficial to me. When I turned twenty-five, my car insurance premium went down and I was able to rent a car without incurring additional fees. This is the last time that growing a year older results in benefits of any kind. My next beneficial birthday is when I turn fifty-five and I qualify for acceptance into AARP4.
Every birthday since twenty-five has involved the unpleasant reality of growing older. At twenty-six, I could still claim I was in my mid twenties. Twenty-seven made me realize that my youth was on a downhill trajectory. If this is true, then thirty is the bottom of the hill.
This is currently how I feel, close to the bottom of a gradual hill that goes straight down from here on out. In other words I don’t feel old but I don’t feel remotely young anymore. Ten years ago the main priority on my birthday was getting intoxicated immediately. Today I am more concerned being sharp for work tomorrow. Age is a funny thing. So here’s to twenty-nine, my last opportunity to live fast and die young. Good riddance.
1 I remember telling my third grade teacher that learning cursive was pointless. Why do I need to know that the lower case “m” has three arches instead of two? Technology has made my hatred of handwriting legitimate. God bless the computer.
2 While I still don’t understand what is exciting about watching an extremely lopsided football game played by 19-year-olds, I can appreciate consuming fried foods and cheap booze at noon on a Saturday.
3 Usually the trip takes four hours, which is comparable to St. Louis to Kansas City. Today I spent an extra hour on the highway at a dead standstill because of an accident involving an SUV and an eighteen-wheeler. This was infuriating for more reasons than I care to admit.
4 This is true unless you count the constitutional provision that requires thirty-five years of age to run for President of the United States.