Birthdays have that lovely quality of making you take stock of things, of giving you the chance for a freshness about things (if not making you feel like a old fart). It’s like another chance at spiffed up New Year’s resolutions. And since my birthday was just a handful of days ago, I took the opportunity to reflect.
I’m not sure I’ve got things as figured out as I thought I would at my age…but doesn’t everyone feel that way? Not that I’m that old; I’m just not that young…although I feel both young and old in different ways. I think about how at my age, both of my sisters were married for at least a few years and with a couple of kids each…but that’s the kind of comparison that gets you in trouble.
Why is it so hard not to do that? “By the time _______ was my age, s/he’d accomplished ________. Why haven’t I?” I do that in my personal life (I should be married! I should have kids! I should own a house!), my professional life (I should have sold a book! Or have more in savings!), even in capoeira (I should be able to do a macaco by now! I should be able to walk on my hands!). So much so that sometimes, in frustration, I give up. (How long has it been since I’ve trained capoeira? I can’t even think about it.)
I call these the “should’ves”. I should be doing this. I shouldn’t be doing that. I should’ve finished that a long time ago. Should’ves have a shitty way of making you feel like whatever it is you’re doing, whether large or small – from reading that magazine article to going back to grad school – there is something much more important that you should be doing. It’s one of those Catch 22’s: No matter how productive you are, you should be more productive. And forget about leisure time and self-reflection. That, too, is scheduled like everything else and is the first to get knocked off the list. Which is probably why this is my first post on this blog in over a month. I tried once to have have a “No should’ves” day…which was blissful. I gave myself permission to do whatever it was that I wanted to do – which mainly just meant reading, laying on the couch, and painting my toenails. You know, really important stuff. The sad thing is, that day was at least 2 years ago.
But come to think of it, that’s kind of what I did on my birthday. I mean, sort of. I had to work and I had two classes and had to TA – so laying in bed all day wasn’t even close to an option. But I took some breaks that I normally would’ve worked right through. I bought myself a cupcake. I just sat and enjoyed it. I called a friend from high school. I window shopped. It wasn’t at all productive. But it sure was lovely.