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Birthdays come faster every year

Our family celebrated birthdays over the weekend and even though we didn’t celebrate my birthday, I thought how quickly birthdays seem to come. I remember birthdays were so “slow” when I was a kid. They looked like years between 12 and 13 years old and decades between 17 and 18 years old. Of course, I felt like I had lived a century when my 21st birthday finally came.

Since then, my birthdays seemed to have gradually gained “speed.” It’s something like 3 pounds a year that I gained between the ages of 30 and 50. Unnoticeable one year at a time, but surprisingly obvious 20 years from now. Now birthdays are coming so fast that I can still taste last year’s birthday cake.

The 24 hours of every day that I experienced at age 15 are still the same 24 hours that I experience today. But now each day has more meaning because of what I have experienced along the way. At 15, my biggest stress was finishing my geometry homework. Now I have my cholesterol, my financial future, my children, and many other things to worry about. But the biggest difference is that now I look at my pain and my losses and put a completely different spin on what is really important in my life.

I realize that every birthday brings me closer to the end of my life, but I am not afraid or sad about it. I accept the reality that we all have limited time in this world. Birthdays remind me that I have work to do, people to love and appreciate, make amends to make, and a “wish list” to cut. The pain and losses I have experienced create a sense of urgency in my life and remind me that the most important thing is spending time with people who are important in my life. It is clear to me that at some point I will not be able to visit a sick friend or classmate, talk to my nieces and nephews on the phone, carry babies that are to come, tell my children that I love them, or even have control over my bodily functions. But I’m not paranoid about this.

In fact, I’m a bit disappointed at the end of each day if I don’t connect with someone who means something to me (even if it’s just the plants in my garden because my grandmother taught me they are alive). With a third of my life over, I don’t want to waste precious days watching TV or complaining about things I can’t change. We all have so much power to influence people’s lives in a positive way, but we rarely take advantage of it. Giving love to the world is the reason we were all sent here in the first place.

One of the organizational techniques that I have learned throughout my professional career is to “start with the end in mind” and work backwards from there. Having a clear vision of the “desired result” brings enormous clarity to the steps required to achieve it. Since we all have the same end, perhaps we should “work backwards” to this same point and find out what we must do to be happy and peaceful with our lives once it is over. And since we can go at any time, each day becomes very important. Even if I am lucky enough to live another 25 years, at the speed with which these birthdays are approaching, it will all be over soon.

Another birthday is coming up and another one just behind. I have to call someone today. I have to hug someone today. I’m going to tell the cashier at the grocery store that I appreciate them. I’m going to call my son and tell him that I love him.

I think the chocolate cake sounds good this year.

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